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CJ: Mediation the way to go
Chief Justice Ivor Archie has issued a call to all judges, attorneys and litigants to work together for the introduction of an effective and permanent system of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as part of the justice system of T&T.
He made the appeal as he formally launched an ADR pilot project during a function at the Hall of Justice last week. He also referred to previous ADR initiatives including Judicial Settlement Conferences which he said have yielded positive results.
Archie said: “Since the inception of the Court Annexed Mediation Pilot Project in 2011, and having reviewed the reports on that project with a settlement rate of 60 per cent, and a customer satisfaction rating of 95 per cent, the question in my mind has been, not whether mediation should form part of our judicial system, but rather and quite simply, why was it not done a long time ago.
The Chief Justice also observed that since 2011, there had been an increase in the number of Judicial Settlement Conferences being conducted by judicial officers and at least one Senior Counsel.
Expanding on the experimentation of the ADR concepts, the Chief Justice noted that for many in the legal profession, they constituted “a strange new thing” where disputants could, in a controlled environment, resolve challenging commercial disputes which would ordinarily consume much of the parties and the court’s limited resources; where agreements could be fashioned outside the limits and parameters of the parties pleaded case, and where motives and emotions were resolved, dissipating the legal battle, and where disputants leave the court satisfied that they had obtained justice through the exertion of their own collaborative efforts and where peaceful solutions could be crafted creatively within he shadow of the law.
“A strange new thing indeed in Judicial Settlement Conferences,” the Chief Justice said, “where judicial officers were actually helping parties to settle their disputes using the language of collaborative consensus, giving preliminary forecasts of the likely outcome of litigation.”
Having witnessed these forms of ADR, Archie said, there were now many converts to them, and it now sets the stage for the formal integration of a model of ADR-tailored to meet T&T’s needs and consistent with our local culture. Also welcoming the initiatives were Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar, whose portfolios had representation on the committee which undertook the project.
Other participants in the preparation for the introduction of the system were the Law Association of T&T and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce whose president and chief executive officer respectively also witnessed the launch.
The Chief Justice praised the Law Association for its participating in the project, for their mature input in the court’s processes and selection of roistered mediators and judicial officers as well as for their helpful suggestions as the judiciary finalised the practice direction for the project.
During the year-long run of the pilot project, 200 commercial cases are to be referred to mediation by the judge at first case management conferences. These cases will be chosen randomly to participate in the pilot project, and the parties have the option of agreeing to their matter being referred to mediation by an order of the court.
In the case of Judicial Settlement Conferencing, 100 cases will be referred to mediation, 40 per cent of these being chosen randomly and the remainder selected by the judge.
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