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Preparing for Arbitration

Most civil disputes are resolved without filing a lawsuit, and most civil lawsuits are resolved without a trial. The Court and others offer a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes to help people resolve disputes without going to trial. ADR is usually less formal, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a trial. ADR can also give more opportunity to determine when and how their dispute will be resolved.

Who must attend the Arbitration?

Parties must attend the arbitration hearing, and may be represented by an attorney.

The arbitration hearing may proceed and an award issued in the absence of a party who, after due notice, fails to be present or to obtain a continuance.

What is the role of the Arbitrator?

Arbitrators listen to the evidence presented by each side and render a decision in writing called an award. The arbitrator must disclose to the parties any conflict of interest or potential conflict that might affect his or her impartiality in the case.

How to prepare for the Arbitration

Although less formal than at trial, counsel and clients should be fully prepared to argue their position on the case and to present documentary evidence and witnesses at the arbitration hearing.

Before the arbitration hearing each side should: organize their arguments; identify and organize documentary evidence and testimony that supports the arguments; and make sure they have complied with CRC 3.820 prohibiting ex parte communication with the arbitrator.

Persuasive and forceful presentation is permitted but civility and mutual respect are vital.

Submission of briefs

Briefs are expected and necessary. The brief should include identification of the parties, a concise description of the facts, and applicable case law and statutes. The briefs should be submitted to the arbitrator at least 2 days prior to the arbitration hearing.

What to expect at the Arbitration Session

The rules of evidence apply in arbitration, with the exceptions listed in CRC 3.822(b).

The arbitrator will explain the process. Each side may present an uninterrupted opening statement setting forth its position as to the facts and the law.

After opening statements, the parties present their evidence and witnesses. The arbitrator swears in the witnesses and makes rulings on the admissibility of evidence.

After all evidence is presented and all witnesses have been heard, the parties make closing arguments.

Discovery after assignment of Arbitrator

All discovery must be completed not later than 15 days prior to the date set for the arbitration hearing.

The Arbitrator’s Award

Within 10 days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator must submit an award in writing and file it with the Civil Clerk’s Office, with copies to all parties. The Court may allow up to an additional 20 days to submit an award in complicated cases.

Judgment/Trial de Novo

An arbitrator’s award is final and entered as the judgment unless a Request for Trial (trial de novo) is filed within 30 days from the date the arbitrator files the award with the Civil Clerk’s Office.

Any party may request a trial de novo, which will take place as though there were no arbitration. However, if the party requesting the trial de novo does not receive a judgment more favorable than the arbitrator’s award, that party may be assessed additional costs associated with the trial.

© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County