Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998-Congressional Record-House
October 10, 1998
Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998
Mr. COBLE. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and concur in the Senate amendments to the bill (H.R. 3528) to amend title 28, United States Code, with respect to the use of alternative dispute resolution processes in United States district courts, and for other purposes.
The Clerk read as follows:
Page 2, after line 3, insert:
"SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND DECLARATION OF POLICY.
"Congress finds that--
"(1) alternative dispute resolution , when supported by the bench and bar, and utilizing properly trained neutrals in a program adequately administered by the court, has the potential to provide a variety of benefits, including greater satisfaction of the parties, innovative methods of resolving disputes, and greater efficiency in achieving settlements;
"(2) certain forms of alternative dispute resolution , including mediation, early neutral evaluation, minitrials, and voluntary arbitration, may have potential to reduce the large backlog of cases now pending in some federal courts throughout the United States, thereby allowing the courts to process their remaining cases more efficiently; and
"(3) the continued growth of Federal appellate court-annexed mediation programs suggests that this form of alternative dispute resolution can be equally effective in resolving disputes in the federal trial courts; therefore, the district courts should consider including mediation in their local alternative dispute resolution programs.'
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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Coble) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Coble).
Mr. COBLE. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on the bill H.R. 3528.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from North Carolina?
There was no objection.
Mr. COBLE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, H.R. 3528 is designed to address the problem of high caseloads burdening the Federal courts. This legislation will provide a quicker, more efficient method by which to resolve some Federal cases when the parties or the courts so choose.
The bill also provides for the confidentiality of the alternative dispute resolution process and prohibits the disclosure of such confidential communications.
The version considered today is substantially the same as the one we passed under suspension in April, with minor Senate clarifications. The bill has no known opposition and is supported by the American Bar Association, the Judicial Conference and the Department of Justice.
This legislation will provide the Federal courts with the tools necessary to present quality alternatives to intensive Federal litigation. In sum, this is a good bill that will offer our citizens a reasonable and cost-effective alternative to expensive Federal litigation, while at the same time still guaranteeing their right to have their day in court.
I urge my colleagues, Madam Speaker, to pass H.R. 3528.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 3528, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998. As litigation increases, so do litigation costs. It is clear that we all agree Congress should do all it can to encourage opposing parties to try alternative dispute resolution .
While I am concerned about the bill's provision making this process mandatory, since the overwhelming majority of Federal courts already have some form of alternative dispute resolution , the mandatory provision is a de jure insult but not so much de facto.
As one who served in the Federal courts and in the State courts, I am mindful of the tremendous need for alternative dispute resolution .
The Federal courts have been willing to implement alternative dispute resolution . This bill now says they must. I would prefer that the decision whether to adopt a particular court-annexed ADR program be left to the courts, but I think this bill has it both ways. It requires mandatory alternative dispute resolution but retains some flexibility for the courts to determine for themselves exactly what kind.
The legislation has improved dramatically from what it reflected upon introduction. There is more flexibility for the courts to determine how to proceed once they set up an alternative dispute resolution program. I appreciate the positive changes that have been made and urge my colleagues to support this bill, and thank the sponsor and cosponsors, my good friend, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Coble), for bringing this action for our consideration.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 3528, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998.
This Bill passed the House in April, by a vote of 405 to 2, and it is here again, with Senate Amendments.
Alternative Dispute Resolution is commonly referred to as 'ADR.'
ADR includes a range of procedures, such as mediation, arbitration, peer panels and ombudsmen.
Traditional dispute resolution in America almost always involves a Plaintiff and a Defendant, battling each other in a court, before a judge or jury, to prove that one is wrong and one is right.
It is time consuming, and it is expensive, too expensive for most wage earners to afford, and often too time-consuming to be of much practical use.
In addition, as one writer has observed, a process that has to pronounce 'winners and losers necessarily destroys almost any preexisting relationship between the people involved . . . [and] . . . it is virtually impossible to maintain a civil relationship once people have confronted one another across a courtroom.'
The Bill before us requires all U.S. District Courts to establish a voluntary alternative dispute resolution program within the courts.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party--a mediator--assists two or more disputants, to reach a negotiated settlement of their differences.
The process allows the principal parties to vent and diffuse feelings, clear up misunderstandings, find areas of agreement, and incorporate these areas of agreement into solutions that the parties themselves construct.
The process is quick, efficient and economical.
It also facilitates lasting relationships between disputants.
A recent survey by the Government Accounting Office showed that mediation is the ADR technique of choice among the five federal agencies and five private corporations that were surveyed.
The Report stated, 'Most of the organizations we studied had data to show that their ADR processes, especially mediation, resolved a high proportion of disputes, thereby helping them avoid formal redress processes and litigation.'
In a taped message on Law Day, May 1st, Attorney General Janet Reno said, 'Our lawyers are using mediation . . . to resolve . . . employment . . . cases. I have directed that all of our attorneys in civil practice receive training in mediation advocacy.'
On that same day, President Clinton issued a memorandum, creating a federal interagency committee to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution methods within the federal government, pursuant to the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996.
In addition, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 encourages the use of mediation and other alternative means of resolving disputes that arise under the Act or provisions of federal laws amended by the title.
And, in 1995, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission promulgated its policy on ADR which encourages the use of ADR in appropriate circumstances.
ADR can provide faster, less expensive, less contentious and more productive results in eliminating disputes.
In sum, ADR is effective and is legislatively and administratively encouraged.
Mediation is the ADR method of choice.
It is the wave of the future, an effective tool.
In the next Congress, I intend to introduce legislation to further encourage the use of ADR.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I strongly support H.R. 3528, this important legislation relating to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998. Alternative Dispute Resolution , whether medication, neutral evaluation, arbitration, mini-trial or any other fair procedure that the courts can oversee, and which makes litigation less burdensome, is in my view welcome and something that we should all support.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I support reporting out this bill which provides the appropriate standards for federal courts throughout the nation to continue to develop workable alternative dispute resolution methods, and I am pleased that we worked with the judicial conference and the department of justice to craft legislation which is not objected to by those important institutions.
I support the legislation before us. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the vast majority of the 94 federal district courts have established dispute resolution programs, in effect, simply because it works. It is efficient, less expensive and, it works for all parties involved. I hope my colleagues throughout Congress support this legislation.
Madam Speaker, I have no further speakers, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. COBLE. Madam Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Coble) that the House suspend the rules and concur in the Senate amendments to H.R. 3528.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the Senate amendments were concurred in.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.