I was an Associate Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court when the Court adopted the Rules of Appellate Mediation effective January 1, 2004. As a former litigator and trial court judge, I did not anticipate that mandatory mediation at the appellate level would result in many settlements – after all, final judgments had been entered and “winners” and “losers” had been established. I could not have been more mistaken.
The Appellate Mediation Office screens appeals and decides which cases will be referred to mandatory mediation. From January 1, 2004 to August 1, 2016, 827 Supreme Court cases, 50.77% of the cases referred to appellate mediation, were fully settled. Another 17 cases were partially settled. Referrals in the Court of Civil Appeals have been equally successful. 984 of that court's cases have been fully settled through mediation, a success rate of 50.72%. An additional 7 cases were partially settled.
There are probably many reasons for the success of the appellate mediation program. The Appellate Mediation Office obviously does an excellent job in screening the cases before referring them to mediation. Also, the mediation process itself has become well-established in Alabama over the last quarter century, producing attorneys who understand and accept the process, as well as a talented pool of trained appellate mediators. In a later article, I will explore the many reasons why a party might want to settle a case on appeal.