The Washington County Local Rules of Court permit the Court to order parties to mandatory mediation in the Civil Division and Orphans' Court Division. Parties can also voluntarily utilize court services to mediate, conciliate, or otherwise settle cases. This page contains information regarding various forms of mediation used as part of this practice.
Washington County Court Litigation Mediation Programs
The Court of Common Pleas has established two public mediation programs pursuant to local rule. Access the links below for the text of the rule:
The Court Administrator manages the mediation program. Parties may consent to take part in the program or may be court-ordered to participate.
How to take part in a Mediation Program
If your case has been ordered to mediation, or if all parties jointly agree to take part in the program, you should contact the Deputy Court Administrator for the Civil Division to begin the process of having a mediator appointed.
As part of the mediation program, a court mediator is appointed by the Court or selected by the Court Administrator. The parties can also consent to a particular mediator. For a list of mediators, contact the Deputy Court Administrator for the Civil Division.
The mediator is paid by the Court of Common Pleas out of the combined fees paid by the parties, minus administrative costs.
Court-ordered Mediation Fees
Each party must pay a one-time flat rate mediation fee as part of the entry into the program. On multi-party cases, this fee is due from each named party; not each side, not each party in interest, and not per attorney. The sole exception to this policy is that only one fee is required from parties who are suing jointly as spouses (i.e. husband and wife, etc.).
Current Mediation Fee - Civil Litigation Program - $300.00 per party
Current Mediation Fee - Orphans Court Program - $300.00 per party
By Court Order, mediation fees are due and owing ten (10) days after the mediation has been scheduled. Invoices and/or W-9 forms are not provided to counsel or the parties, as mediation fees under the Program are court-ordered payments. Failure to pay the mediation fee in a timely manner can subject the delinquent party to sanctions or contempt proceedings.
At this time, checks and cash are the only permitted form of payment. Checks are strongly recommended over cash. Checks should be made payable to the Washington County Mediation Program and should be sent to the Court Administrator's office for processing.
Scheduling and Attendance
Once appointed, the Mediator shall contact the parties to jointly schedule the mediation session. Although the mediator may coordinate scheduling, the mediator ultimately has the discretion to schedule as he or she chooses.
The parties are required by rule to submit mediation statements/pre-trial statements to the mediator, attend the mediation, and participate in good faith. Failure to do so may result in sanctions.
Following the mediation, the mediator will submit a report to the Court Administrator on the result of the mediation within ten (10) days. This report will contain the mediator's assessment of liability, the mediator's opinion regarding the potential range of verdict, the mediator's settlement value of the case, the final settlement positions of all parties (if settlement was not reached), and any recommendations regarding further settlement. This report is provided to the Court for review and is not filed of record.
If the mediation is successful, the parties should execute the settlement and discontinue the action as soon as possible to prevent further scheduling before the Court. If the case is not discontinued within an appropriate period of time, the Court Administrator will inform the Court of such failure to discontinue the case, and the Court may schedule further proceedings.
If the mediation is not successful, the Court will schedule further proceedings upon the receipt and review of the report. Further mediations can be held upon request, but at the discretion of the Court and Mediator. Further sessions may be assessed an additional mediation fee at the discretion of the Court. The parties are also permitted to utilize the mediator as a private mediator without further Order of Court, subject to the mediator's hourly rate.
Serving as Mediator
If you are a licensed attorney and wish to serve as a mediator in the Civil Litigation Mediation Program, contact the Deputy Court Administrator for the Civil Division for further information. Mediators are selected for their experience in particular civil practice areas and must be members in good standing of the Washington County Bar Association. See the local rule for more information.
On cases of particular complexity or involving significant damages, the Court has the discretion to order the parties to attend privately managed mediation. When doing so, the Court shall issue an order specifying the mediator and ordering the parties to pay the mediator's hourly rate. Private mediation is specific to each case, and as such the scope of such mediation is controlled by the Order of Court directing it.
Special Presiding Officer
Upon petition, or sua sponte, the Court may appoint a special presiding officer with respect to any or all matters before the Court, subject to limitations set forth in a statute, rule of court, or other applicable authority. The order appointing a special presiding officer shall set forth the scope of the authority of the officer, and the manner of remuneration if applicable. See Wash R.Civ.P. L-304.
The Special Presiding Officer may hold conciliations or mediations as part of his or her court-ordered duties.
The Judges of the Court of Common Pleas Civil Division may hold conciliation sessions with the parties, counsel, and the Court itself. Any such conciliations are held at the discretion of the Court and the scope of such conciliation is set by Order of Court.