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The Rhode Island judge assigned to the month-old experimental business calendar in the state Superior Court said that he requires all parties that come before him to engage in non-binding mediation. Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein, appointed by the presiding justice of that court to handle the business calendar docket, said there is a general reluctance on the part of some attorneys to try and resolve a dispute short of trial because of fears they are giving up something, including a larger fee, if the case is mediated. “In my view, mediation is appropriate for many, many cases,” he said. “The time when a case is sent to mediation varies.” He added that if there are more than a handful of cases going to a jury trial, the calendar is not a success. “We want to get cases resolved,” said Silverstein whose comments came at a seminar at the Rhode Island Bar Association last month on the progress of the experimental calendar. As the only judge hearing cases specifically designated to the business calendar, Silverstein said he wants members of the bar considering filing their case in his court to understand how the process is working so far. The trial period for the experiment will run thought Dec. 4 after which Superior Court Presiding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers Jr. and other court officials will review whether to continue with or expand the business calendar. “I would be shocked personally if the calendar did not continue beyond that date,” said Silverstein, whom Rodgers selected, in part, because of his background in bankruptcy and receivership matters when he was a private attorney with Providence, R.I.’s Hinckley, Allen & Snyder. The main reason to separate some business disputes from other civil litigation is to resolve those specific cases in a “prompt, reasonable and fair manner,” Silverstein said. “We want to give businesses the ability to function and focus on business rather than on the dispute,” he said, noting that the goal of the calendar is to expeditiously move cases along. “I don’t care if it’s CVS or a ma and pa store … if it’s a business problem, get it behind you as quickly as possible.” THE PROCESS In order to get a case assigned to the business calendar, either one of the two parties in a dispute must fill out a one-page form that asks a series of questions aimed at determining whether the case is appropriate for this specialized court. The “first test” is to see if a particular case fits into one of the nearly dozen categories identified as appropriate for the calendar, including disputes involving Uniform Commercial Code transactions, shareholder derivative actions, business insolvencies, complicated real property transactions and commercial bank transactions. So far, 86 cases have been assigned to the business calendar, more than half of them receivership cases, according to Silverstein. About eight cases were rejected because they were simple collection cases and did not fit into one of the categories, he said. Other cases that would not be heard on the business calendar include declaratory judgment proceedings with respect to insurance coverage, confirmation or vacation of arbitration awards and general landlord and tenant issues.

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