This article discusses a multi-jurisdictional study that surveyed litigants from three different state court systems (including the 3rd Judicial District Court of Utah, the California Superior Court of Solano County, and the 4th Judicial District of Oregon). The study included almost 500 randomly selected parties from three jurisdictions. The parties were involved in a variety of civil cases and had the option of using mediation, non-binding arbitration or proceeding to trial. After reading descriptions of possible processes to resolve their case, the parties were asked to indicate their preference on a 9-point scale. Their responses demonstrated a significant preference for three processes: mediation, bench trial and negotiation between attorneys with their clients present. They were least attracted to non-binding arbitration and binding arbitration. Compared to arbitration, mediation had both an overall higher mean preference rating. Parties were much more likely to say that mediation was extremely attractive than that it was extremely unattractive. The opposite was true for both binding and non-binding arbitration. The author suggests that with limited funding, courts may want to consider mediation as the one ADR process offered for civil cases.
This article is a part of a series of articles presenting different aspects of the author’s research into the decision-making of litigants in civil cases. Other articles reported a lack of awareness among litigants as to what options were available to them, looked at what litigants wanted from a dispute resolution process, and discussed how litigants evaluate characteristics of legal procedures.