Mini-trials in Federal Courts

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 (ADRA) (28 USC 651 et seq.) mandates that courts authorize, establish, and promote the use of ADR, including mediation, arbitration, mini-trial and summary jury trial, in all civil actions. Federal district courts maintain their individual discretion to decide at what stage in the litigation process a court may offer ADR to the parties. Local rules establish ADR procedure in the federal courts.

The federal government also encourages the use of ADR in general within its own ranks. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 provides a forum for handling disputes within agencies or between citizens and agencies (claims against the government). Federal agencies are free to set up their own procedural ADR programs for the handling of both internal and external disputes. For example, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains several ADR program provisions for federal agencies that contemplate mini-trials (as one of several alternatives); examples include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (14 CFR 17.45), the Department of Energy (10 CFR 1023.8), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (24 CFR 7.2).

Inside Mini-trials in Federal Courts