What Happens During an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Each dispute is unique—and so is the ADR process used to try resolve the conflict. 



 The following describes the typical steps in ADR:

Request for ADR:  The Assigned ALJ in a formal proceeding will likely discuss ADR with the parties at the first prehearing conference. Parties may also request ADR by contacting the Assigned ALJ or the ADR Coordinator, ALJ Kimberly H. Kim (415-703-1558) or send her an email at: adr_program@cpuc.ca.gov. Please include your name, telephone number, e-mail address, the formal proceeding number (if any), and a brief description of the dispute.

The ADR Coordinator suggests process & offers neutral(s):  After receiving a request, the ADR Coordinator will discuss the ADR request with the Assigned Commissioner and the Assigned ALJ. If ADR appears promising, the ADR Coordinator will determine which ALJ neutrals may be available. The ADR Coordinator will contact the parties and offer a specific type of ADR (facilitation, mediation, early neutral evaluation, or settlement conference) and an ALJ neutral. The parties will have a limited time opportunity to disqualify the proposed ADR neutral for a "good cause" reason and request another neutral. In complex cases, more than one ADR neutral may be offered, thereby allowing the parties to agree on one of the neutrals. Early neutral evaluations may use a panel of three ALJ neutrals.

Selected neutral contacts parties:  After being selected, the ALJ neutral will contact all the parties who have agreed to participate in ADR. The ALJ neutral will discuss the ADR process, confidentiality, and the time and place for the fist ADR session. The ALJ neutral will also distribute a standard confidentiality agreement to be executed by all participants at or in advance of the first ADR session.

Preparation for session: The ALJ neutral may require the parties to do some work in preparation for ADR, such as preparing a summary of the dispute. The ADR neutral may require the presence of party representatives who have authority to commit to a settlement. Use this link to access a set of ADR Preparation Questions that may help you prepare for ADR. If early neutral evaluation (ENE) is being used, the ALJ neutral will provide detailed instructions on how to prepare.

One or more ADR sessions:  Most ADR sessions are concluded, successfully or unsuccessfully, within ½ to two days. Complex cases may result in the parties meeting with the neutral for many consecutive days or on a few days each week over several weeks. Most ADR sessions are held in San Francisco, but can be held at locations more convenient to the parties.

If successful, obtaining approval of settlement:  If an ADR process has produced a partial or complete settlement, the agreement may still need to be submitted to the Commission for its approval. In that event, the parties must formally present the settlement to the Commission with sufficient justification for its approval. The ALJ neutral can provide procedural guidance on requesting Commission approval.

  Many settlements require one or more of the parties to perform certain tasks to fully implement the agreement. Many agreements are a written contract that obligates the parties to do certain things, and these contracts may be enforced by a court. Also, if approved by the CPUC, the Commission may also order the full implementation of a settlement.

Evaluation:  At the conclusion of ADR, we invite all participants to complete an online, confidential Anonymous Evaluation Questionnaire so that the ADR program can be improved.

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