Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
May 11, 1995
The expansion of court-annexed arbitration programs should be
voluntary, but not mandatory, a representative of the federal
Judiciary told a House subcommittee today.
The [Judicial] Conference believes that the decision of adopting a
particular court-annexed arbitration program should be left to the
individual district courts, rather than mandating an across the board
requirement, said Judge Ann Claire Williams, chair of the Judicial
Conference's Committee on Court Administration and Case Management.
Williams, a U.S. district court judge in the Northern District of
Illinois, testified today before the House Judiciary Committee's
Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Judicial Administration.
The subcommittee was conducting a hearing on H.R. 1443, which would
require all U.S. district courts to establish rules allowing
arbitration in civil actions.
Williams noted that the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990 required
each district court to develop a civil justice cost and delay
reduction plan that considers the specific needs and circumstances of
each court, its litigants, and the litigant's attorneys. In adopting
plans, 80 of the 94 district courts have included some form of
alternative dispute resolution.
In her testimony Williams also stated that there is some concern that
the mandatory arbitration programs created under H.R. 1443 could
actually add to expense and delay by requiring all litigants,
regardless of the circumstances surrounding the case, to go through
this extra first step before proceeding to a traditional jury trial.
The Conference's view is that well run voluntary programs will
attract participants and provide an effective form of alternative
dispute resolution without demanding that all litigants participate
regardless of their circumstances, Williams said. Therefore, the
Conference believes that the discretion to adopt court-annexed
arbitration programs should be limited to voluntary programs.
In her testimony Williams also addressed two other pieces of
legislation. One, S. 532, which is supported by the Judicial
Conference, is a technical amendment dealing with multi-defendant
cases. The second, H.R. 1445, would amend Civil Rule 30 to require
stenographic recording of oral depositions. The Conference's Advisory
Committee on Civil Rules already has expressed its concerns with this
bill, noting that the current rule is cost effective, facilitates the
use of modern technology, and ensures an accurate record.
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