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Approving sweeping changes to its mandatory alternative dispute resolution program, the Delaware Superior Court, the highest level trial court in the state, will require all civil cases — regardless of value — to engage in arbitration, mediation or neutral case assessment. The new rule, effective March 1, is expected to send an additional 1,000 cases to ADR annually, according to the court. Under the prior ADR rule, civil cases with less than $100,000 at stake were required to go to arbitration or mediation. “We first adopted Rule 16 quite a few years ago,” recalled former Delaware Superior Court Judge Vincent A. Bifferato, senior counsel in Wilmington’s Bifferato Gentilotti. “It was a way of weeding out cases because too many were getting on the trial list that were resolving right before trial. That took a lot of court time. The thought was perhaps an independent lawyer could assess the cases and some would go away.” That initial effort was “quite successful,” he added. Under the new rule, discovery will be permitted. The Superior Court has statewide original jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases, except for equity cases and domestic relations matters. The court has exclusive jurisdiction over felonies and drug offenses (except most felonies and drug offenses involving minors, and except possession of marijuana cases).

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