The coronavirus pandemic has closed state and federal courts for many purposes and heightened the problem of crowded courts. Our New Jersey federal court is woefully understaffed. The state court system also has had a problem in filling vacancies. Delays in our courts will become even more severe, once the pandemic passes and public bench and jury trials resume, despite the best efforts of judges, staff, and lawyers to resolve matters remotely by Zoom or other process. Pandemic lawsuits regarding contract and lease breaches will exacerbate the challenges our courts face.

Lawyers, judges, ADR providers, and bar associations have suggested that mediation and arbitration may help to clear cases in the interim. It is not just that ADR generally allows parties to resolve their disputes more quickly and efficiently than courts. Of particular note during the pandemic, both mediation and arbitration are considered “private”—a potential solution to the backlog of court cases that require public access. Parties can agree to have their disputes resolved in “remote” video hearings and conferences to avoid court delays.

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