The Justice of the Peace Court is introducing a new mediation program to resolve civil cases before they go to trial. As part of this program cases filed before July 1, 2020 will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference.
What is a Pre-Trial Conference?
Pre-trial conferences are:Between the judge and the parties in the case
A mandatory court proceeding and electronically recorded.
Pre-trial conferences are done by ZoomA mailed notice tells you when it is scheduled
You will get instructions for using Zoom
The judge and parties determine if the case can be settled without a trialFinancial and other assistance from social service and state agencies are discussed
The judge prepares an agreement if a settlement is reached
If there is no settlement, the judge and parties decide if the case goes to mediationMediation for pre-July 1 cases is not mandatory unless
The judge believes mediation can be successful but the parties refuse in bad faith
If so, the judge can order the parties to mediation
If there is no mediationThe judge narrows the legal and/or factual issues of the case
The Court sets a trial date
If all parties agree to mediation, the Court schedules it and notifies you.
What Will the Judge Ask at the Conference?Have you discussed settling your case?
If so, what was the result of those discussions?
If not, what stopped you?
Has either party sought assistance from social service agencies?
Was any assistance provided?
Did landlord apply for financial assistance from the Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DE HAP) for COVID?
Visit Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DE HAP) for information
If so, what was the outcome?
If not, assess the tenant’s potential eligibility by asking:
Does the tenant owe money from before March 1?
Is the tenant receiving federal or state rental assistance?
Did COVID-19 financially affect the tenant’s ability to pay rent?
Could a mediator help resolve this case before going to trial?
Has the tenant filed a declaration claiming protection from eviction under the CDC order?
Tenant must claim they can’t pay their rent due to COVID-19 expenses or hardships
What is Mediation?
Mediation provides a neutral forum where parties attempt to reach a settlement of their court matter without going to trial.Parties work with a trained mediator to resolve the dispute
The process is confidential but the final agreement becomes public record and is legally enforceable
Consequences for violating the agreement are included as part of the final agreement
Mediation is conducted by ZoomAssigned mediators meet virtually with all parties at the same time. Options are:
The mediator holds discussions with all parties
Parties meet separately with the mediator
Parties meet alone
Financial and other assistance from state and social service agencies are reviewed
All discussions are confidential
If an agreement is reachedThe mediator reads the agreement to all parties and records it electronically
The mediator writes the agreement and sends to the Court for approval
The case goes to trial if the parties can't come to a settlement
Who Are Mediators?
Mediators are:Specially trained Justice of the Peace Court Magistrates
Note: Judge mediators are not involved in a case if it moves forward to court
Members of the Delaware Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) section
Why Use Mediation?
Mediation uses video technology to:Reduce the need for litigants to come to court
Resolve cases faster
Remember—There is no trial if mediation is successful