A mini-trial is an alternative method for resolving a legal dispute from a formal court trial. Mini-trials, like mediations and arbitrations, constitute unique forms of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) favored by courts and litigants alike. There has been a general increase in all forms of ADR in recent years because of the advantages offered: reduced cost, fast resolution, privacy, and less adversity in effect.
A mini-trial is really not a trial at all. Rather, it is a settlement process in which the parties present highly summarized versions of their respective cases to a panel of officials who represent each party (plus a “neutral” official) and who have authority to settle the dispute. The presentation generally takes place outside of the courtroom, in a private forum. After the parties have presented their best case, the panel convenes and tries to settle the matter.