What is Neutral Evaluation?
Neutral Evaluation provides the parties and their counsel in general civil
cases, on a voluntary basis and in a confidential session, the opportunity to
make summary presentations of their claims and defenses and receive a
non-binding evaluation by an experienced neutral lawyer with subject matter
The goals of neutral evaluation are to:
Enhance direct communication between the parties about their claims and
Provide an assessment of the merits of the case by a neutral expert
Provide a “reality check” for lawyers and their clients
Identify and clarify the central issues in dispute
Assist with discovery and motion planning or with an informal exchange of key
Facilitate settlement discussions, only when requested by the parties
The evaluator, an experienced attorney with expertise in the subject matter of
the case, will convene an informal meeting of clients and counsel. At the
informal meeting, each side - through counsel, clients or witnesses - will
present evidence and argument supporting its case without regard to Rules of
Evidence and without direct or cross-examination of witnesses.
The evaluator will ask questions after the initial presentations, and then each
side may present a responsive presentation. Following the presentations, the
evaluator will identify areas of agreement and disagreement, clarify and focus
the issues, and encourage the parties to enter procedural and substantive
The evaluator will then prepare an evaluation, outside the presence of the
parties, which may include an estimate, where feasible, of the likelihood of
liability and the dollar range of damages, and an assessment of the relative
strengths and weaknesses of each party's case.
If requested by the parties, the evaluator will also facilitate settlement
Voluntary and Confidential
Neutral evaluation may not be ordered; it is available on a voluntary basis
only. Communications made in connection with a neutral evaluation session
ordinarily may not be disclosed to the assigned judge or to anyone else not
involved in the litigation, unless otherwise agreed. The confidential
evaluation is non-binding and is not shared with the trial judge.
Submission of Written Statements
Counsel exchange and submit written statements to the evaluator at least 7 days
before the neutral evaluation session. These statements are not filed with the
The Neutral Evaluator
The evaluators on the court’s neutral evaluation panel were selected for their
litigation experience and subject matter expertise. The parties select the
evaluator for their case.
How to Start the Neutral Evaluation Process
The parties agree to participate in neutral evaluation by completing the form
Stipulation to Participate in ADR. Upon receipt of the Stipulation, the Court
or ADR Department may refer the parties to neutral evaluation (the "Neutral
When a case is referred to neutral evaluation, counsel will complete and submit
immediately to the ADR Department the required ADR forms. Counsel will then
choose from the court’s neutral evaluation panel an available neutral evaluator
with expertise in the substantive legal area of the lawsuit and no apparent
conflict of interest.
Appropriate Cases for Neutral Evaluation
Cases with the following characteristics may be particularly appropriate for
Counsel or the parties are far apart on their views of the law and/or value of
The case involves technical or specialized subject matter, and it is important
to have a neutral with expertise in that subject;
Communication across party lines (about merits or procedure) could be improved;
Equitable relief is sought, if parties, with the aid of a neutral expert, might
agree on the terms of an injunction or consent decree; and/or
The parties wish to communicate with each other about the case, but are not
ready specifically to discuss settlement.
The evaluators on the court’s neutral evaluation panel provide time for a
pre-session telephone conference, preparation time, and the first three (3)
hours of the session free of charge. Thereafter, the parties may be charged for
additional hearing time on an hourly basis at rates established by the
evaluator if the parties so consent in writing
Different from Mediation and Arbitration
Neutral evaluation is different from arbitration and mediation. Arbitration
involves an evidentiary hearing and actual determination on the merits of a
case. Neutral evaluation is less formal; counsel present their case in a
narrative form. The evaluator assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of
each party’s case, based on the law and the evidence.
Mediation does not involve an evidentiary hearing nor is it based solely upon
the law. Instead, the goal of mediation is to resolve a case based upon the
parties' respective interests and may involve the mediator learning
confidential information from each party.
Choosing neutral evaluation does not mean that the parties cannot later choose
to mediate or arbitrate their case.