Mediation Now Required in Allegheny County
The addition of the Allegheny County Local Rule 212.7 requiring mandatory mediation is the result of the work of the Allegheny County Mediation Task Force who began exploring the idea of mandatory mediation for civil cases in the Court of Common Pleas after the Court used a pro bono mediation program to help alleviate the backlog created when jury trials were halted because of COVID-19. In June, 2020 members of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County (ATLAC) volunteered and were appointed by the Court to serve and resolve cases on the September and November 2020 trial list.
Local Rule 212.7
Local Rule 212.7 requires all parties in a civil proceeding to participate in a formal mediation process. The timing is tied to the publication in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal of the trial list. Parties must mediate at least 45 days prior to the beginning of the trial term – but the rule allows the parties to mediate earlier in the process if they so choose. In fact a note to the local rule indicates that the intent was to allow the parties to determine at what point mediation might be most effective while also providing a deadline for it to occur.
There are two exceptions to the mandatory mediation requirement: (1) if the calendar control judge excuses the case from mediation a showing of “good cause;” or (2) if all the parties agree to waive mediation and file a required Certification. LR 212.7(1). In addition, the local rule does not apply to arbitration appeals, asbestos cases or landlord tenant cases. LR 212.7(5).
The rule also specifies the parties to the mediation – these include all parties with a financial interest as well as non-parties who may have a financial interest (such as insurers). Further, parties attending the mediation must bring with them “full authority to settle the case.” LR 212.7(2).
It is important to note that the local rule also provides a provision for sanctions against counsel and/or parties for failing to comply “in good faith” with the mandatory mediation provision. LR 212.7(4).