This month, the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia released a press release announcing the launch of a two-year pilot appellate court mediation program that will begin on January 1, 2019. The mediation program will only be available in select civil cases where both parties are represented by legal counsel. Additionally, in the Court of Appeals, mediation will be available for equitable distribution and/or related attorneys fee disputes. Mediation will also be available for Supreme Court cases where a petition for appeal has been granted. In both courts, the Clerk of each court will notify counsel that, if both parties agree to mediate, there will be an automatic stay of proceedings for 30 days to allow for mediations to occur.
The genesis behind the pilot program stems from recommendations made by the Special Committee to Study Appellate Mediation in Virginia. In 2017, the Special Committee was created at the request of Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Virginia State Bar (“VSB”), and the Virginia Bar Association (“VBA”). Members of the Special Committee included representatives from both appellate courts, appellate litigation representatives from the VSB and the VBA, leaders from the Joint ADR Committee and the Dispute Resolution Services Manager from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
In addition to recommending the creation of the pilot program, the Special Committee also recommended a new level of certification for appellate mediators during the pilot projects. The request for a new level of certification will be presented to the judicial council for adoption later this year. The full report from the Special Committee can be found here.