The mission of the Ada County Small Claims Mediation Program is to provide a safe environment in which all parties in a small claims action have an equal opportunity to participate in a confidential communication process whereby issues related to the dispute are clarified and resolution options are explored.
Welcome from our court,
Welcome to the Ada County Small Claims Mediation Program’s web page. If you are at this site, it is probably because you are currently having a dispute with someone in Small Claims Court. Or, perhaps you are a community volunteer who would like to assist the Court in resolving small claims disputes. In either case, you will find this site useful.
In mediation programs across the country, a majority of litigants (people who are involved in a law suit) have reported highly favorable reviews of the mediation process. Most litigants feel that the mediation process is fair and that they had a full opportunity to present their case. Most litigants report that mediation gives them control over the dispute resolution process and control over the outcome of their case. Finally, a majority of the people who have engaged in mediation said that they would use mediation in the future and would recommend mediation to others.
I hope you enjoy our web page and find it informative.
Idaho Code section 1-2303 authorizes the Small Claims Department of the Magistrate Division to refer cases to mediation. Rule 16 of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure (I.R.C.P.) defines mediation as follows:
- “Rule 16(k). Mediation of civil lawsuits. — (1) Definition of Mediation. Mediation under I.R.C.P. 16(k) is the process by which a neutral mediator appointed by the Court or agreed to by the parties assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. The role of the mediator is to aid the parties in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise and finding points of agreement. An agreement reached by the parties is to be based on the decisions of the parties, and not the decisions of the mediator.”
For additional information concerning Idaho Court Rules, please visit the Idaho Supreme Court web site.
The Ada County Small Claims Mediation Program was implemented in 1997 in response to a substantial increase in the number of cases filed. The program uses mediators as communication facilitators in a confidential process between the plaintiff and defendant. The mediation is conducted on-site in a safe, neutral environment on the day the claim is scheduled for court, the goal of which is to promote a peaceful resolution prior to a formal hearing. During the mediation, the parties are encouraged to bargain or negotiate in good faith in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If the parties involved in the dispute cannot come to a mutually beneficial agreement, then the formal court hearing occurs.
The jurisdiction of this court covers civil court cases in which plaintiffs are seeking a money judgment of up to $5,000.00 or personal property valued up to $5,000.00.
Prior to a small claims court trial, Judge Cockerille requests that all disputants participate in the mediation process. If a mutually-beneficial agreement is not reached during mediation, the plaintiff and the defendant will appear before the judge that afternoon to present their evidence at a formal hearing.
Mediation is a communication process designed to assist parties in a dispute andexplore all options for seeking peaceful resolution to their conflict. Mediators do not give legal advice, and they do not judge who is right or wrong. The mediators facilitate a constructive communication process, assisting the primary parties listed in the case in identifying all issues and examining all perspectives of the conflict. Witnesses or people not listed in the case are not allowed to participate in the mediation unless all parties agree they can participate. Once the issues leading to the dispute have been identified, a negotiation process begins. All conversations during mediation are strictly confidential; the only public documentation of the mediation is the resulting memorandum of agreement which, when signed by the judge, becomes a court order.
All mediators involved in the Ada County small claims program have been professionally trained. They are part of the program’s volunteer staff that is comprised of Boise State Dispute Resolution Interns, Certified Professional Mediators, and Community Volunteers.
Volunteer opportunities are available. Many of our volunteers have begun their state certification fieldwork requirements. Over half of the mediators used in the small claims program are Certified Professional Mediators through the Idaho Mediation Association or Boise State University. Professional training is provided through the Small Claims Mediation Services Coordinator’s office and certified by the Idaho Mediation Association and Boise State University.
- Mediation is an informal, safe process;
- The mediator structures a productive discussion between the plaintiff and the defendant.
- Many people find the process to be a comfortable, positive way for creative problem-solving.
- The mediators at Ada County have found over the last 17 years that the persons best able to resolve a dispute are the people directly involved in the conflict.
- The cases referred to the Ada County Small Claims Mediation Program have been statistically tracked for the last several years. A resolution rate of 78%, with a 94% compliance rate, has been maintained. In other words, 78% of the cases that have been referred to the mediation process has resulted in a mutually beneficial agreement between the parties.
- Many people also get personal satisfaction from using the mediation process. They prefer to take an active part in solving their own dispute rather than relying on a judge to impose a solution.
- Mediation can help resolve the problem that has brought someone to Small Claims Court. Through mediation, people usually arrive at a final resolution more quickly and conveniently than by going to trial and asking a judge to decide their case. Most of the agreements reached in this mediation program are compiled within six months or less.
- The mediation process itself frequently opens the door to communication and allows trust to be rebuilt between the parties.
The mediator meets with the parties directly involved in the dispute. Witnesses are invited to stay and listen to the first stage of the mediation, which is a complete explanation of the process. The witnesses are then excused and called into the mediation at the discretion of the mediators.
The mediator reviews the claim and explains the purpose of mediation, answering many of the questions most people have about the mediation process or any other questions you may have. All parties involved in the mediation process will then be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate form which can be found by clicking on the “Mediation in Small Claims Cases” link located at the bottom of this Idaho Supreme Court, Court Assistance Office web page for Small Claims Forms. This form is intended to protect the rights of everyone present in the process, insuring that confidentiality will be maintained and that the expectations of the procedures are understood.
Together, the plaintiff and the defendant clarify what issues need to be resolved. Each party has a chance to tell his or her perspective and to explain what is important to him or her.
Mediators sometimes meet separately with the parties. The mediator will explain this process, known as a caucus, at the beginning of the mediation. All discussions in the mediation are kept strictly confidential. The mediator will help you and the person you have the disagreement with generate options that may lead to possible solutions. This leads to the productive, positive negotiations stage of mediation, and agreements are frequently drafted.
Litigants are not required to reach a final agreement at mediation. If an agreement is reached, all aspects of the agreement are written on a document and signed by all involved parties. The agreement is then reviewed by Judge Cockerille. Once the judge signs off on the agreement, it becomes a court stipulation.
Unlike trials which take place in courtrooms that are open to the public, mediations in this program are held in private conference rooms on the fourth floor of the Ada County Courthouse.
You should bring any documents – statements, invoices, or photographs, for example – that will help the other person and the mediator understand all of your concerns and the issues involved in the dispute. Bring all relevant evidence just as though you were preparing to present it to the judge in a formal hearing. All evidence is shared with everyone involved in the claim. Bring the originals and two copies of each item of evidence to give to the other person and the mediator for examination.
In addition to organizing your evidence, you may want to write a brief, detailed account of your perspective of the dispute.
- What do I really want to happen as a result of this claim?
- What are my priorities in this case?
- What is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement?
- What do I think the other person wants to happen?
- What are the worst alternatives to a negotiated agreement?
The mediation process usually takes about two hours.
If the parties reach an agreement on how to resolve their dispute, the mediator will help put the agreement in writing. This reduces the possibility of misunderstandings about the agreement. The consequences of non-compliance with the agreement will be fully explained by the mediator and written as a part of the agreement. Review dates are set as needed by the mediators to monitor compliance. If the mediation agreement is fulfilled, the parties do not need to attend a review hearing, and the judge will dismiss the case. If compliance has not been met, the plaintiff must file an affidavit of non-compliance, and a default hearing and review date will be set.
If the parties do not come to a resolution, the formal court hearing is scheduled for the same day. At the hearing, all persons presenting evidence are sworn in. The judge begins the hearing by allowing the plaintiff, who has the burden of proof, to present his or her side of the claim. The judge then asks for the defendant to respond. After the defendant’s response, the plaintiff will then be allowed a rebuttal. The judge then enters a judgment or dismisses the case. The small claims judge is not required to enter a full summary judgment; the decision is based on the merits of the case, evidence, and the Idaho Code. Once a judgment has been entered, either party has thirty days to appeal the judge’s decision. Therefore, collection on a judgment cannot occur for thirty days. If a case is appealed, the case will no longer be held in the small claims court venue; instead, it will be moved to magistrate court as a trial de novo.
Attorneys are not allowed to represent clients in small claims court as this court venue is known as pro se (litigants represent themselves). All evidence is exchanged between the parties for examination during the mediation.
If you need the services of an interpreter, please so indicate on your case claim or response, or contact the Ada County Interpreter Coordinator.
If you live out of state and wish to request a telephone hearing, you will need to do this two weeks prior to the scheduled court date. You can access the telephonic request form through the Ada County Court Assistance Office.