Trials can be costly in many ways: They extract an emotional toll on the parties. They also occupy the courts with hearings, discovery and other critical details.
 
While sometimes a trial is the only way to resolve a dispute, the vast majority of cases do not result in a verdict. Some settle on the courthouse steps. Some are funneled out of the court system into arbitration. And many are resolved through alternative means.
 
The New Jersey courts have long used complimentary dispute resolution (CDR) as a way to help parties resolve their matter well before a trial, saving discord, time and money for all involved. The Garden State has been a national leader in CDR, and this week the New Jersey State Bar Association will host a forum to examine the path it has taken and what the future holds.
 
The aim of the forum is to “bring judges, lawyers, and court staff together to discuss the court’s dispute resolution programs in an effort to offer the Judiciary perspective and recommendations for moving forward in this area,” organizers said.
 
On Thursday, “CDR 2012: Then and Now,” a free event, will be held at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The program will include presentations, panel discussions and breakout discussions on how CDR is used in civil, criminal, family, chancery/general equity and municipal court practice from the attorney, Judiciary and judge perspective.
 
Speakers include retired Justice Gary Stein, retired Judge Linda Feinberg, Judge Stephan Hansbury, and attorneys Cary Cheifitz, Bonnie Blume Goldsamt and former state bar association presidents Lynn Fontaine Newsome and Edwin McCreedy. Judge Glenn A. Grant, administrative director of the Administrative Office of the Courts will offer closing remarks. The event is sponsored by the association’s Judicial Administration Committee.
 
The first CDR programs were offered in the 1970s, mostly for small-claims cases, but were not necessarily uniform because the courts had not yet been centralized. In the early 1980s the Courts decided to look more closely at creating uniform programs for the whole system.
 
Complimentary dispute resolution began in New Jersey over 20 years ago.
 
The initial effort offered programs in municipal, civil, and family. It was expanded to a statewide program with a uniform approach.
 
Today, CDR programs are available to help parties resolve disputes in a wide variety of actions, from child custody, visitation and matrimonial disputes, to claims involving personal injuries, automobile accidents, small-claims matters and landlord-tenant disagreements. CDR is also available in the municipal courts to help resolve neighborhood disputes and other matters the court deems appropriate for mediation, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
 
Court officials said they are proud of the varied CDR programs offered to the public, which is supported by many volunteers. But, they say, they are always looking for ways to fine-tune and improve the experience.
 
“We look at what is the need of our community to resolve issues and costly, what services can we provide,” said Kathleen Gaskill, Manager of CDR Programs for the New Jersey courts. “We always keep in mind: What is the best quality of justice we can provide? We are open to good change to help people. We serve the people. That’s what we do.”
 
To find out more about the forum, visit njsba.com.