A new alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, which has a procedural format similar to mediation and other voluntary ADR procedures, has been developed by Senior Judge Frank G. Evans (Ret.) of Bastrop, Texas. The unique structure of this ADR process gives lawyers and their clients greater input into the conduct of the proceedings and more control over the amount of time and cost they are willing to expend in completing discovery and other pre-trial activities. Thus, the Evans process holds promise for being more user-friendly and affordable for everyone, particularly those of moderate or limited financial resources who may be involved in disputes that are subject to the Expedited Civil Actions Rule.
The ADR Cooperative Agreement
The procedural format of the Evans ADR process is governed by the terms of a Cooperative ADR Agreement, which is developed by mutual agreement of the parties and their counsel after meeting separately with Judge Evans to determine whether the process is “right” for the particular dispute. If the parties and their counsel mutually agree upon the terms of the Cooperative ADR Agreement, Judge Evans will help them (a) identify the principal issues in dispute; (b) create a realistic timetable for the completion of any needed discovery; (c) develop private and confidential neutral case evaluations for each party regarding the probable outcome of the issues in dispute, and (d) make informal estimates regarding the time and cost required to complete their pre-trial activities. Once Judge Evans has this information in hand he will help the parties complete their settlement negotiations in accordance with the terms of their Cooperative ADR Agreement.
Benefits of the Evans ADR Process
The principal benefits of the Evans ADR process are that it (a) tends to assure that all parties have an intelligent understanding of the risks and obligations assumed by them, respectively, under the terms of the Cooperative ADR Agreement; and (b) that with such understanding they have voluntarily committed to engage in good faith settlement negotiations in a cooperative effort to resolve the dispute. With the encouragement and guidance of Judge Evans, the parties likely will have a strong incentive to fulfill these commitments. The ultimate benefit to the parties and their counsel is that they will be able to control the amount of time and cost invested in the process and the clients will have greater satisfaction with the results achieved.