A mandatory arbitration program for Madison County has been unanimously approved by the circuit judges of the Third Judicial Circuit, according to a press release issued by Chief Judge Ann Callis.
Pending approval from the Illinois Supreme Court, the program could be instituted as soon as Jan. 1, 2007.
The program would help expedite the resolution of cases where the dispute is less than $50,000 by requiring the parties to enter mandatory arbitration before proceeding to trial.
"The program saves parties in small disputes significant time and legal fees," said Judge Daniel Stack, who co-chaired a task force examining the the matter.
"Parties often resolved disputes in six months or less rather than the two-year average under our current system," he said. "We also are reducing the number of jury trials which means fewer Madison County residents will be called for jury duty."
Stack and Associate Judge Barbara Crowder, the other task force co-chair, reviewed St. Clair County's arbitration program, one that has been deemed successful. The task force, which also included area attorneys, also examined data the Supreme Court has collected from all 15 court systems that have thus far implemented arbitration programs.
Stack said the committee believes the court's existing facilities could accommodate the program.
"Our committee reviewed the space requirements for implementing an arbitration program and we believe we can begin the program with existing at the new Criminal Courts building pending possible funding from the Supreme Court for space to accommodate future expansion of the program," he said.