Non-Binding Arbitration in the Mechanics Lien Section - Cook County Circuit Court
Year started: 1998
Neutrals: 1) Retired judges or 2) attorneys with at least ten years of practice, five of which are in construction litigation
Eligibility: All mechanics liens cases, with those valued below $50,000 most strongly recommended
Free Mediation Services Available?: No
The Circuit Court of Cook County established a non-binding arbitration pilot program in the Mechanics Lien Section effective April 6, 1998. The program was developed by a collaborative effort of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), the Circuit Court, and the Mechanics Lien Sub-Committee of the Chicago Bar Association. The program is most strongly recommended for cases in which the amount at stake is less than $50,000 and the hearing is expected to last no more than one day. Participation in the program can be requested by the litigants or may be suggested by any mechanics lien judge. For each case arbitrated, the assigned judge randomly selects and assigns an arbitrator from a master list maintained by the judges of the Mechanics Lien Section. If the assigned arbitrator or either side believes that grounds for disqualification exist, the judge may appoint another arbitrator. All arbitration hearings are conducted on a pro-bono basis.
Arbitration hearings are held within 120 days of the appointment of the arbitrator. The hearing is conducted according to the provisions of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure and the Rules of the Illinois Supreme Court, with established rules of evidence followed unless otherwise noted in the program rules. Control of the discovery process is retained by the assigned judge and is to be completed within 90 days after the appointment of the arbitrator. Within 14 days of the hearing, the arbitrator renders a non-binding decision and informs the Court that a decision has been made without revealing its content. The parties then attempt to settle the case before the post-arbitration status hearing set by the Court.
If the parties reject the arbitrator's decision and the Court tries the case, the Court may review the result of the arbitration in awarding attorney's fees and expenses under the Mechanics Lien Act. Program rules prohibit either side from calling the arbitrator as a witness in the subsequent trial or informing the judge of the arbitrator's decision.
Arbitrators for the program must be retired judges or attorneys with at least 10 years in practice and five years experience in construction litigation. Before joining the master list of arbitrators, these attorneys or retired judges complete an orientation program for arbitrators at the AAA. The program averages 12 cases a year, about 4 per judge, and the majority of awards are accepted by the parties.
Honorable Robert QuinnMechanics Lien Section
Circuit Court of Cook County 2804 Richard J. Daley Center 50 West Washington Street Chicago, IL 60602 phone: (312) 603-3900 fax: (312) 603-5199