FRANK G. EVANS DISPUTE RESOLUTION SERVICES OF BASTROP COUNTY
Policies and Procedures
January 23, 2017, as adopted by the Commissioners’ Court
Frank G. Evans Dispute Resolution Services of Bastrop County (hereinafter “Evans Dispute Resolution Services or “EDRS”), a service sponsored by the Bastrop County Bar Association (hereinafter sometimes “BCBA”), pursuant to an order of the Bastrop County Commissioners Court under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Section 152.001 et seq., is authorized to manage Bastrop County’s mediation and alternative dispute resolution system and appropriately utilize designated funds for the use and benefit of the people of Bastrop County. The primary focus of BCDRS is to provide financially aided mediation for qualifying parties and to provide, when possible, services for dispute resolution referred by local citizens, groups, and courts. The “designated funds” noted above refer to funds created under the authority of the Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Sections 152.004 and 152.005 whereby additional charges are imposed on court fees for the express purpose of supporting alternative dispute resolution. The Bastrop County Commissioners’ Court has heretofore authorized these additional fees pursuant to said statute.
The EDRS Committee
In accordance with the above authorization, the Bastrop County Bar Association has created a standing committee whose function is to provide EDRS with advice and recommendations regarding best practices, policies and procedures in dispute resolution. It is also to serve as a communication conduit between the BCBA, the EDRS, and Bastrop County. The EDRS Committee is to be comprised of five (5) to seven (7) members in good standing of the BCBA. One of the members will be selected by the current president of the BCBA to serve as the Chair of the committee. The Chair is responsible for selecting the other members. The term of service of all members will be one year, that year being measured by the calendar year of the BCBA. There is, however, no prohibition against any member serving more than one term or serving continuous terms.
The EDRS Coordinator
The EDRS Coordinator (hereinafter “Coordinator”) will be selected by the EDRS Committee and work as an Independent Contractor for EDRS. The Coordinator will report directly to the Chair of the EDRS Committee as specified in the Job Description. The Coordinator will be paid through Bastrop County from the designated funds. The Coordinator will be responsible for the operation of EDRS as delineated in the Job Description signed at the time of engagement, and as modified thereafter. The Coordinator shall inform the EDRS Committee of any concerns, questions, needs, or problems as they arise as soon as possible in order that the Committee has knowledge and time to consider and to respond as may be needed.
EDRS Intake and Referral Procedures
To assure the fair, efficient and cost-effective processing of all disputes referred to the EDRS for mediation, the EDRS Committee has adopted the following policies and procedures that will apply to the intake and referral of all such disputes.
Disputes Referred Other than by Court Order
It is the policy of EDRS to encourage the reasonable and orderly resolution through mediation of disputes that are not being litigated in the courts, including, but not limited to disputes occurring in Bastrop County referred by neighborhood groups, individuals, schools, businesses and county agencies.[Note:At least one of the participating parties must qualify for Financially Aided Mediation (FAM) as discussed in paragraph 2 below in order to participate in EDRS mediations.] The Coordinator will refer all such disputes to a qualified mediator on a rotating basis.Qualified mediators for these cases shall include mediators with appropriate training for the dispute, and may include non-attorneys as well as attorneys.Fees for this type mediation shall be determined in the same way as cases pending before the Justice of the Peace set forth in Paragraph 4 below.
Financially Aided Mediation Fees
In keeping with the focus of providing financially aided mediation for qualifying parties who have been court ordered to mediation, the EDRS Committee has adopted a Financially Aided Mediation (hereinafter “FAM”) Fee Schedule, which is attached hereto as Form A.This form will be used to determine mediation fees owed by the parties in cases referred from Bastrop County Court at Law and Bastrop County District Courts.Qualification for FAM would be determined by the sliding scale adopted by the EDRS Committee.This sliding scale may be revised from time to time by the Committee.Current fees for a half-day mediation will be $300.00 per party, with the mediator to be paid $500.00, unless it is a volunteer mediation.
County Court at Law and District Court FAM Referrals
In cases referred to EDRS from the Bastrop County Court at Law or the Bastrop County District Courts in which any Party’s household gross income (or corporate gross income) is less than 400% of the current federal poverty guidelines, the case qualifies for FAM and each of the parties shall pay a mediation fee to the EDRS as calculated using Form A.Only one party needs to qualify for the case to qualify for FAM.Each party will pay according to the sliding scale attached.EDRS will refer all such disputes to a qualified mediator on a rotating basis.Qualified mediators for these cases shall include mediators with appropriate training for the dispute, and shall be mediators who have tendered an application to and been approved by the ADR committee of the Bastrop County Bar Association or any other entity managing the EDRS for the County of Bastrop.
Justice of the Peace and Small Claims FAM referrals
In cases referred to the EDRS from Bastrop County Justices of the Peace (both Justice and Small Claims Courts) in which any party’s household gross income (or corporate gross income) is less than 400% of the current federal poverty guidelines, the case qualifies for FAM and each of the parties shall pay a mediation fee to the EDRS as calculated using Form A.Only one party needs to qualify for the case to qualify for FAM.Each party will pay according to the sliding scale attached.EDRS Coordinator will refer all such disputes to a qualified mediator on a rotating basis.Qualified mediators for these cases shall include mediators with appropriate training for the dispute, and may include non-attorneys as well as attorneys.Current fees for a half-day mediation will be $175.00 per party, with the mediator to be paid $300.00, unless it is a volunteer mediation.
Intake Procedures and Information
The Coordinator will be responsible for processing all EDRS intake and referral services whether such services are conducted in person, by telephone or by electronic means.The Coordinator will be responsible for coordinating contact with the mediator, payment of fees, and the location of the mediation.The Coordinator will be responsible for processing the indigency intake/application form as adopted by the EDRS Committee, in order to determine eligibility for services.
Court Referral Procedure
When a case is appropriate for mediation and the court has reason to believe the case may qualify for FAM, the clerk of the court may prepare an Order to Mediation and forward copies of the Order to the parties as well as the Coordinator of EDRS.Along with ordering the case to mediation, the order shall require all parties to complete and provide to EDRS within ten (10) days a completed form stating the type of case (family law, personal injury, probate, real estate, property, breach of contract, debt, etc.), the indigency intake/application form as adopted by the EDRS Committee, as well as contact information for the party and any attorney of record. This form will be for the purpose of determining whether the case qualifies for FAM, what fees are due, and what qualifications the mediator should have.
Upon receiving the signed application from all parties, the EDRS Coordinator shall determine whether or not the case qualifies for FAM and, if so, what fees the parties should be ordered to pay, and shall assign a qualified mediator on a rotating basis.If a form is not submitted by a party, that party will be considered not to qualify for FAM.The Coordinator shall then fill in the blanks on an Order Naming Mediator approved by the Court, which will name the mediator from a rotating list of EDRS mediators who are qualified to mediate cases of that type.The Order will also state the fee to be charged to the parties and the fee to be paid to the mediator.Fees will be paid to the EDRS.The Order will include the contact information for the mediator and order each of the parties to contact the mediator within 10 days to schedule the mediation.The parties will also be ordered to provide the mediator with information requested in preparation for the mediation, and to pay the required fee to the Coordinator in advance of the mediation.
Objections to Mediation and Terms of Mediation Order
A party may file with the Court an objection to the terms of the Order of Mediation or Order Naming Mediator, including objections to the appointment of a specific mediator and payment of any mediation fee.The Orders shall state that any objection to the terms of the order shall (a) be made in writing to the issuing Court and (b) set appropriately for hearing if not resolved.
Selection of Mediator
The Coordinator will use the list of mediators and their information as well as information from the parties to select EDRS mediators for the disputes handled by EDRS.The Coordinator shall select the mediator based on the type of case, mediator qualifications, mediator availability, and shall rotate through the list of mediators.If a mediator is unavailable or unwilling to mediate a particular matter, the mediator will not lose the placement on the list.Once a mediator has performed a mediation by selection, however, that mediator shall rotate to the bottom of the list to allow a greater participation among qualified mediators.
The EDRS shall review qualifications of mediators to be placed on the rotating lists to insure training appropriate for appointment.
Interested mediators shall volunteer for one unpaid/volunteer mediation per year to qualify for appointment to paid mediations.
Only one mediation fee shall be paid for any mediation, whether there are one or more mediators participating in a mediation.
Mediators shall be paid $500.00 for a half-day mediation of a case referred from the County Court at Law or District Courts.Mediators shall be paid $300.00 for a half-day mediation in all other disputes.A “half-day mediation” means a mediation that is commenced and continues for four (4) hours or any part thereof.
Fees for mediations shall be determined by the sliding scale adopted by the EDRS Committee. Checks, money orders, and other negotiable instruments for fees should be made payable to Bastrop County Dispute resolution Services.The EDRS does not accept cash payment for its services.All negotiable instruments collected for mediation fees by the EDRS Coordinator shall be immediately marked “For Deposit Only,” and shall be taken to the Bastrop County Treasurer within five (5) business days for deposit in the appropriate mediation fees account.All fees collected for mediationby the EDRS Coordinator shall be paid to the County Treasurer for deposit in the appropriate account. All fees paid to mediators shall be paid by the County Auditor from the appropriate account.
Other Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution
The EDRS will explore other types of dispute resolution and attempt to make other alternatives available for disputes in litigation.Such disputes may include a three person panel of attorneys familiar with issues involved in the type of dispute submitted to evaluate a matter by means of a Moderated Settlement Conference.Such a procedure may be made available for fees of $300.00 per party (subject to the sliding scale set forth above), with each panel member to be paid $175.00.Other types of dispute resolution may be addressed by the EDRS Committee on a case by case basis, or additional criteria may be set forth by change to these policies and procedures.
The EDRS Mediator Protocol
All persons providing mediation services through EDRS agree to provide those services to the people of Bastrop County in accordance with the established policies and procedures of the Evans Dispute Resolution Services Committee and to abide by and support the following dispute resolution protocol:
Each EDRS Mediator agrees to conduct their professional dispute resolution services in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations related to the performance of ADR services in the State of Texas.
Each EDRS Mediator agrees to provide FAM to EDRS parties in accordance with the policies and procedures of EDRS. Each EDRS Mediator agrees to accept one volunteer mediation without pay per year to be included on the rotating list of mediators.
Each EDRS Mediator agrees to meet annual requirements for continuing education and training as determined by the EDRS Committee and to participate with the Committee and the Courts in the conduct of ongoing continuing education programs. In this regard, each EDRS Mediator is expected to be knowledgeable about applicable rules of professional conduct and ethical guidelines related to the conduct of mediation and other ADR processes, and each EDRS Mediator is encouraged to advance their skills and knowledge through membership in related professional dispute resolution organizations.
Each EDRS Mediator agrees to work cooperatively with the EDRS Committee and with the courts, schools, business, and non-profit institutions and organizations to develop programs that will improve the quality and efficiency of alternative dispute resolution processes and expand public awareness about the availability of such processes in Bastrop County.
Each EDRS Mediator acknowledges the applicability of the Texas Supreme Court’s Mandate for Professional Responsibility to dispute resolution services and agrees to actively encourage parties and their counsel to treat each other with courtesy and respect, to refrain from communicating in a manner that might mislead or deceive, to help the parties understand all sides of the controversy, and to work together in a good faith effort to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.
EDRS Mediators Membership List and Selection Process
The EDRS Coordinator will assist the EDRS Committee in developing, maintaining and publishing a list of EDRS Mediators who are currently available for the performance of EDRS services in Bastrop County. Each mediator will have a file that documents experience, availability, training, certifications, preferences, etc., to ensure cases are properly assigned.
Through the Frank G. Evans Dispute Resolution Services of Bastrop County, Bastrop County offers financially assisted mediation services to individuals who are unable to afford mediation. To determine if you qualify for assistance with the payment of mediation or to schedule financial aided mediation services through the Frank G. Evans Dispute Resolution Services of Bastrop County, please complete the contact form below and submit it for review. You should receive a response within 48 to 72 hours. If you are interested in serving as a mediator through the Frank G. Evans DRS of Bastrop County, please submit your contact information below and an application will be forwarded to you.
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