August 18, 2019
Appropriate Dispute Resolution Information Sheet

Appropriate Dispute Resolution Information Sheet for the Superior Court of California,
County of San Mateo

Mediators, the court requests that you provide a copy of this to your client.

In addition to the court provided voluntary and mandatory settlement conferences, this court has established, in partnership with the community and Bar Association, a Multi-Option ADR Project. Recognizing that many civil disputes can be resolved without the time and expense of traditional civil litigation, the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo strongly encourages parties in civil cases to explore and pursue the use of Appropriate Dispute Resolution.

What is Appropriate Dispute Resolution?

Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the general term applied to a wide variety of dispute resolution processes which are alternatives to lawsuits. Types of ADR processes include arbitration, mediation, neutral evaluation, mini-trials, settlement conferences, private judging, negotiation, and hybrids of these processes. All ADR processes offer a partial or complete alternative to traditional court litigation for resolving disputes.


What are the advantages of using ADR?

ADR can have a number of advantages over traditional court litigation.

  • ADR can save time. Even in a complex case, a dispute can be resolved through ADR in a matter of months or weeks, while a lawsuit can take years.
  • ADR can save money. By producing earlier settlements, ADR can save parties and courts money that might otherwise be spent on litigation costs (attorneys fees and court expenses.)
  • ADR provides more participation. Parties have more opportunity with ADR to express their own interests and concerns, while litigation focuses exclusively on the parties' legal rights and responsibilities.
  • ADR provides more control and flexibility. Parties can choose the ADR process most appropriate for their particular situation and that will best serve their particular needs.
  • ADR can reduce stress and provide greater satisfaction. ADR encourages cooperation and communication, while discouraging the adversarial atmosphere found in litigation. Surveys of disputants who have gone through ADR have found that satisfaction with ADR is generally high, especially among those with extensive ADR experience.


Arbitration, Mediation, Neutral Evaluation, and Private Settlement Conferences

Although there are many different types of ADR processes, the forms most commonly used to resolve disputes in California state courts are Arbitration, Mediation, Neutral Evaluation and Private Settlement Conferences. The Multi-Option ADR Project, a partnership of the Court, Bar and Community offers pre-screened panelists with experience and training in each of these areas.

  1. Arbitration. An arbitrator hears evidence presented by the parties, makes legal rulings, determines facts and makes an arbitration award. Arbitration awards may be entered as judgments in accordance with the agreement of the parties or, where there is no agreement, in accordance with California statutes. Arbitrations can be binding or non-binding, as agreed by the parties in writing.
  2. Mediation. Mediation is a voluntary, informal, confidential process in which the mediator, a neutral third party, facilitates settlement negotiations. The mediator improves communication by and among the parties, helps parties clarify facts, identify legal issues, explore options and arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.
  3. Neutral Evaluation: Involves presentations to a neutral third party with subject matter expertise who may render an opinion about the case, the strengths, and weaknesses of the positions, the potential verdict regarding liability, and a possible range for damages.
  4. Top

    ADR Procedures for the San Mateo County Superior Court

    1. Upon filing a Complaint, the Plaintiff will receive this information sheet from the Superior Court Clerk. Plaintiff is expected to include this information sheet when he or she serves the Complaint on the Defendant.
    2. All parties to the dispute may voluntarily agree to take the matter to an ADR process. A stipulation is provided here. Parties chose and contact their own ADR provider. A Panelist List is available online.
    3. If the parties have not agreed to use an ADR process, an initial Case Management Conference ("CMC") will be scheduled within 120 days of the filing of the Complaint. An original and copy of the Case Management Conference Statement must be completed and provided to the court clerk no later than 15 days prior to the scheduled conference. The San Mateo County Superior Court Case Management Judges will strongly encourage all parties and their counsel to consider and utilize ADR procedures and/or to meet with the ADR Director and staff where appropriate.
    4. If the parties voluntarily agree to ADR, the parties will be required to sign a Stipulation and Order to ADR.
    5. A timely filing of a stipulation to ADR (at least 10 days prior to the CMC) will cause a notice to vacate the CMC. ADR Stipulated cases (other than judicial arbitration) will be continued for further ADR Case management/status review in 90 days. If the case is resolved through ADR, the status review date may be vacated if the court receives a dismissal or judgment. The court may upon review of case information suggest to parties an ADR referral to discuss matters related case management, discovery, and ADR.
    6. Any ADR Services shall be paid for by the parties pursuant to a separate ADR fee agreement. The ADR Director may screen appropriate cases for Financial Aid referral where a party is indigent.
    7. Local Court Rules require your cooperation in evaluating the ADR Project and will expect a brief Client Evaluation form | Evaluation by Attorney to be completed and submitted within 10 days of completion of the process.



    For ADR forms go to the Local Forms section of the court's web site: For more information, contact Multi-Option ADR Project 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063; Tel: (650) 261-5075 or (650) 261-5076; email


© 2019 Superior Court of San Mateo County