Arbitration is like an informal trial or hearing. The parties present evidence and arguments to their arbitrator, who is an attorney or retired judge. The arbitrator decides the outcome of the case. In most cases, the arbitrator makes a simple decision, called an “award,” stating how much money, if any, one side must pay to the other.
In “binding” arbitration the arbitrator’s decision is final; the parties give up their right to trial and generally have no right to appeal. In “non-binding” judicial arbitration, any party that does not accept the arbitrator’s decision can request a trial.
In Riverside, parties in most general civil (non-family law) cases valued at $50,000 and under can be ordered to judicial arbitration. This means that after the arbitrator submits the award, either side can request a trial.
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No cost with a Judicial Arbitration Panel member. Private arbitrators may charge their market rates.
Most general civil cases valued at $50,000 and under may be ordered to judicial arbitration or to civil, court-ordered mediation (Local Rule 3210). Eligible case types include personal injury, business, contracts, collections, employment, and certain real property matters.
Case types that are not eligible include probate, guardianship, conservatorship, family, custody and visitation, juvenile, small claims, small claim appeals, unlawful detainer, civil harassment, class actions, and certain civil petitions.
However, these cases may be eligible for court- connected mediation programs. For more information, click on the case types above.
For more information on the civil (non-family law) Court-Ordered Mediation program, visit the Civil Mediation Information for Parties/Counsel page.
A judge or commissioner decides if a civil (non-family law) case is eligible for court-ordered ADR, and if so, whether it should be ordered to judicial arbitration or to civil, court-ordered mediation. This decision is usually made at the Case Management Conference held about 180 days after the complaint is filed.
The judicial officer will consider the parties’ Case Management Statements and information the parties present at the Case Management Conference.
Therefore, at the Case Management Conference, parties should be prepared to discuss
- their eligibility for court-ordered ADR,
- their preference for arbitration or mediation; for more information, see next question.
- and their proposed timelines for completing the process, considering the discovery and motions needed for the ADR session to be meaningful and productive.
If your case is ordered to judicial arbitration, the court will send all parties a Notice of Proposed Arbitrators. This Notice lists several arbitrators who were selected at random from the court’s Judicial Arbitration Panel.
There is no need to respond to the Notice of Proposed Arbitrators if the parties agree that the court clerk may assign any one of the proposed arbitrators to the case. The court clerk will assign one of the proposed arbitrators to your case unless the parties either “reject” or stipulate (agree) to a particular arbitrator.
Rejecting an Arbitrator
Each side may reject one proposed arbitrator within the timelines stated on the Notice of Proposed Arbitrators. To reject one of the proposed arbitrators, file a “Notice of Rejection of Proposed Arbitrator.” Be sure to attach a proof of service showing that the Notice was served on all parties. There is no filing fee. The court clerk will assign one of the remaining arbitrators to your case.
Stipulating to an Arbitrator
The parties may select any arbitrator they wish, including one of the arbitrators named on their Notice of Proposed Arbitrators. If parties select an arbitrator from the Judicial Arbitration Panel, there is no charge for the arbitration services.
Many private arbitrators and organizations offer arbitration services for a fee and have websites or advertise in various publications, including the yellow pages.
Parties who select private arbitrators (arbitrators who are not on the Judicial Arbitration Panel) are not entitled to free arbitration services and must pay their arbitrator without contribution from the court.
To stipulate to a particular arbitrator, including an arbitrator named on the Notice of Proposed Arbitrators, file a “Stipulation and Order to Arbitrator for Judicial Arbitration.” There is no filing fee.
Be sure to ask the arbitrator if he/she will accept your case before you file the Stipulation and Order.
Notice of Assignment of Arbitrator
After the arbitrator is assigned or selected, the court clerk will send a Notice of Assignment of Arbitrator with the arbitrator’s name and further instructions and timelines, including the deadline for completing the arbitration.
There is no cost for court-ordered judicial arbitration with a Judicial Arbitration Panel member. The court pays Panel arbitrators $150 for this service. Private arbitrators may charge parties market rates for judicial arbitration without court contribution or involvement.
Settlement discussions are always encouraged. If the case fully settles, parties must notify the arbitrator at least 2 days before the arbitration hearing and must file a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case.
If there is only one defendant in the case and that defendant files for bankruptcy, the case is put on hold ("stayed"). The hearing cannot take place until the bankruptcy case is decided. If there is more than one defendant, sometimes the case will go forward with the participation of the remaining defendants.
Organize your arguments, identify and organize evidence and testimony that support your arguments. The arbitrator will usually ask for an Arbitration brief at least 5 days before the hearing.
Your brief should contain:
- The names of the parties
- Summary of the facts of the case
- The case law and statutes related to the case
- Copies of important documents (example: police reports, contracts, etc.)
Remember: You must follow California Rules of Court, CRC 3.823.
The arbitrator will decide the case within 10 days after the hearing. The arbitrator will send a copy of the award to the parties and the original to the court with a proof of service attached. If the case is very complicated, the Court may give the arbitrator 20 days more to decide your case.
You have 30 days from the filing of the arbitration award to ask for a trial (trial de novo). If you ask for a trial, you will get a date for your Trial Setting Conference. If neither party asks for a new trial within 30 days, the award is final and entered as a judgment.
If you do not finish arbitration by the deadline and the court did not give you permission to continue your hearing, the court will set your case for an Order to Show Cause (OSC) hearing. You will have to explain to the judge why the arbitration has not been completed.