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Alternative dispute resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is any process for resolving disputes outside of the courtroom, and includes mediation and arbitration.

In Texas, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a well-established method for resolving disputes outside of the courtroom. The Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, codified in Chapter 154 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, provides the legal framework for ADR processes such as mediation and arbitration. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third-party mediator assists the disputing parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. Arbitration, on the other hand, involves a neutral arbitrator who hears evidence and arguments from both sides and then makes a binding decision. Texas law encourages the use of ADR to reduce the burden on courts and to provide a more efficient, cost-effective means of resolving disputes. Many contracts and business agreements in Texas include clauses that require disputes to be resolved through ADR, and courts often order or suggest ADR before proceeding to trial.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code - Section 154.023. Court-Ordered Mediation
This statute is relevant as it outlines the circumstances under which a court may order mediation in Texas.

Under this section, a court may refer a dispute to mediation if it finds that mediation is appropriate given the circumstances of the case. The parties may agree to the referral or the court may order it on its own motion. The process must adhere to the minimum standards for mediation procedures as defined by the statute. The court will appoint a mediator unless the parties have agreed upon one, and the mediation must begin within a timeframe specified by the court.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code - Section 154.027. Confidentiality in Mediation
This statute is important because it addresses the confidentiality of the mediation process, which is a key component of ADR.

This section establishes that communication during the mediation process is confidential and is not subject to disclosure in any proceeding. There are exceptions to this confidentiality, such as when all parties agree in writing to waive it, or when the communication reveals abuse or neglect of a child or elderly person. The mediator may not be compelled to testify in any proceeding about the mediation, and any records or notes related to the mediation are also confidential.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code - Section 171.001 et seq. General Arbitration
These statutes govern the general provisions of arbitration in Texas, which is another form of ADR.

The Texas General Arbitration Act (TGAA) provides the framework for arbitration proceedings in the state. It includes provisions on the enforceability of arbitration agreements, the appointment of arbitrators, and the powers of arbitrators. The TGAA also outlines the procedures for initiating arbitration, making arbitration awards, and the confirmation, vacatur, modification, or correction of awards by courts. It emphasizes that arbitration agreements must be in writing and that they are valid, enforceable, and irrevocable except on grounds that exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code - Section 171.052. Arbitration Proceedings
This statute provides details on the conduct of arbitration proceedings in Texas.

Section 171.052 specifies the procedures for conducting arbitration. It includes the manner of giving notice for the time and place of arbitration, the authority of arbitrators to subpoena witnesses and documents, and the ability to administer oaths. The section also allows for the recording of the proceedings and gives arbitrators the discretion to decide the admissibility, relevance, and materiality of the evidence presented.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code - Section 171.087. Appeal from Arbitration Award
This statute is relevant as it outlines the process for appealing an arbitration award in Texas.

This section provides the grounds on which a party can appeal an arbitration award. These grounds include corruption, fraud, evident partiality by an arbitrator, misconduct prejudicing the rights of a party, arbitrators exceeding their powers, and the failure to postpone the hearing for sufficient cause. The appeal must be filed within 90 days after the award is delivered to the applicant.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16
The FAA provides the legal foundation for the enforcement of arbitration agreements and governs the conduct of arbitration in the United States.

The Federal Arbitration Act establishes a strong federal policy in favor of arbitration. It applies to any arbitration agreement within the scope of interstate commerce or involving maritime transactions. The FAA requires courts to enforce private arbitration agreements, to stay litigation in the presence of an arbitration agreement, and to enforce arbitration awards. It limits the grounds on which courts can refuse to enforce an arbitration agreement or vacate an arbitration award, thus favoring the finality and efficiency of arbitration.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998, 28 U.S.C. § 651(b)
This Act requires federal district courts to provide for ADR programs, which may include mediation and arbitration, to enhance the operation of the judicial process.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 mandates that each district court authorize, by local rule, the use of alternative dispute resolution processes in all civil actions, including adversary proceedings in bankruptcy. The Act encourages the use of various ADR methods, including settlement negotiations, conciliation, facilitation, mediation, factfinding, minitrials, and arbitration. The courts are tasked with devising and implementing their own ADR programs, which must include provisions for the confidentiality of the ADR processes and allow for the voluntary or mandatory referral of cases to ADR.

Uniform Mediation Act (UMA), as adopted by individual states
While not a federal statute, the UMA has been adopted by several states to provide a framework for the conduct of mediation, including issues of confidentiality and the enforceability of mediated agreements.

The Uniform Mediation Act provides a legal framework for the practice of mediation. It is designed to promote uniformity of law among states that adopt it. The UMA addresses the confidentiality of mediation communications, exceptions to confidentiality, and the enforceability of mediation agreements. It also outlines the qualifications and duties of mediators, including the obligation to disclose conflicts of interest. While the UMA itself is not a federal statute, it reflects a harmonized approach to mediation that may influence federal courts, particularly in diversity jurisdiction cases or where state law is applied.