The Chamber was therefore very pleased at the opportunity afforded to our Dispute Resolution Centre to be a part of the 2013 Alternative Dispute Resolution Pilot Project. At its launch on January 23, Chief Justice Ivor Archie issued a call to all judges, attorneys and litigants to work together on the project, which incorporates two distinct streams: Court Annexed Mediation and Judicial Settlement Conferencing. The Court-Annexed module will be facilitated by Certified Mediators on the roster of the Dispute Resolution Centre, while the Judical settlement Conferencing will be facilitated by Judicial Officers and Senior Counsel.
The outcome of this project will inform the Judiciary’s introduction of a permanent and extended suite of dispute resolution options which would be offered to litigants when a matter is filed at the Court.
Apart from the obvious benefits to the citizenry, there is the added benefit to Trinidad and Tobago’s competitiveness when customers experience a better quality of service at our public institutions. By de-clogging the courts and introducing less adversarial processes we create an environment that is conducive to regional and international trade and this is particularly attractive for small domestic markets that rely on larger foreign markets.
As the Voice of Business, the Chamber contemplated the value of integrating a swifter, cheaper and professional dispute resolution mechanism, not unlike court annexed mediation, to encourage business and trade, as far back as 1996 when the Dispute Resolution Centre was launched.
Court annexed mediation means that mediation is available as part of the litigation process and during this one year project the Courts will refer 200 randomly selected Civil High Court matters to the Dispute Resolution Centre for mediation. Random selection allows for parties to opt out of mediation when the matter comes before a judge. But it also means that matters referred by the Courts to mediation are done with the consent of the parties, and this is a positive starting point since mediation, in the context of this project, is purely voluntary.
Another court annexed mediation pilot project in 2010 was also administered by the Dispute Resolution Centre and enjoyed a 60 percent settlement rate with 95 percent customer satisfaction. The selection of the Mediation Agency followed an independent public tender administered by the Central Tenders Board where the criteria for selection included the agency’s experience, capacity and calibre of mediators attached to the agency. The Dispute Resolution Centre has over 16 years experience as a Commercial Mediation Agency; it is the longest standing Private Mediation Agency in Trinidad and Tobago and was the first Private Agency to be approved by the Mediation Board of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Centre’s Chairman Raoul John hopes that this new project could be the catalyst for tipping the scales towards more collaborative and less confrontational approaches to dealing with disputes in our society and was optimistic about the project’s success.