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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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