This report assesses the court ADR programs available in New Mexico state courts and suggests strategies for improving the use and impact of the programs. The report was commissioned by the state judiciary in an effort to increase the efficiency of the courts in the face of repeated budget cuts.
The report describes New Mexico's strategy in developing court ADR programs as "local autonomy within boundaries." Local courts have the responsibility to implement programs within broad guidelines set by the state's Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts. As of 2011, three programs were in operation statewide: domestic relations mediation, children's court mediation and magistrate court volunteer mediation. Individual courts also administered other mediation and settlement facilitation programs. The report describes each program and discusses the different ways the courts have implemented them. Surveys of attorneys, judges, court staff and program administrators, and neutrals in the state showed that these programs are valued but underused. For example, only 53% of attorneys who responded to the survey had participated in an ADR program in the past year. Many respondents also reported that they believed the public's understanding of ADR was low.
The report recommended ten improvements to be made to the state's court-annexed ADR system. They include:
- Creating a Supreme Court ADR Commission to "develop, organize and monitor" ADR programs in the state courts
- Collaborating with local groups, agencies and educational organizations to support and promote court ADR programs
- Providing educational and mentoring services for judges to familiarize them with ADR and help them incorporate it into their case management systems
- Establishing new programs as pilot programs before full-scale implementation
- Prioritizing the development of the necessary technology to support court ADR programs
- Creating standard guidelines and principles for court ADR programs in the state, while allowing programs to "vary by jurisdiction size, type and population"
- Promoting and educating the public about ADR options available
Providing self-represented litigants with adequate access to ADR programs
- Expanding existing and creating new programs
- Ensuring sustainable funding of court ADR programs