An Assessment of Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal's Settlement Conference Program
During the mid-1980's, the judges of Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal watched our caseload escalating and our backlog growing. The legislature gave us no new judges during that period. It required no great amount of intelligence to recognize that we had a serious and immediate problem requiring somewhat drastic measures to resolve.
A common strategy of sours and court systems which have become overburdened is to make access to the courts less readily available. This methodology was rejected in our case, and we turned instead to a two-pronged attack on the problem. First, we mounted a campaign to educate the legislature to our needs. The result was that three additional judges were authorized for our court effective January 1989. At the same time that we were making our lobbying approach to the legislature, we reviewed our internal procedures to see if there might be areas where time could be saved by making adjustments to current methods or by instituting new methods.
From our review of the literature detailing mediation experiments in several other states and our meetings with people in the field, we concluded that the chances of having a successful mediation program at the appellate level using any of the models already described in the literature or presently in use elsewhere were considerably less than fifty percent. We obviously did not want to undertake the tremendous amount of work involved in designing and setting up a mediation program only to have it collapse as a failure.
If were to make the effort, we needed to take the best features known to us and perhaps improve upon those in order to increase the chances of having a successful program. To accomplish this, we began to develop a set of forms and procedures that incorporated the best features of other programs and some innovations that we felt would improve the format and content of our program.
We began selecting cases on January 1, 1989 and ending December 1, 1989. Most of those cases have now been concluded and our early program in is the evaluation phase. Our program has been funded by the legislature until July 1991. Hopefully, mediation will remain a permanent alternative at this court and eventually be made available at Florida's other district courts of appeal.
Roger A. Hanson & George W. Hersey,
An Assessment of Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal's Settlement Conference Program,
18 Fla. St. U. L. Rev.