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Alternative Dispute Resolution is a method of settling disputes outside a

courtroom. Controversies in administrative actions can be resolved through


alternative means of dispute resolution.[i] Alternative means of dispute resolution
is not limited to arbitration and mediation. The means extends to all voluntary
means of dispute resolution.[ii] The methods include arbitration, mediation
facilitation, mini trials, and use of ombudsman. In arbitration parties to a dispute
refer dispute to one or more persons by whose decision they agree to be
bound. On the other hand in mediationparties to the dispute accept a solution
suggested by a third party. Facilitation is a settlement process in which the
parties present their respective cases to a panel of officials who represent each
party and who have authority to settle the dispute. Ombudsman is a person who
acts as a trusted intermediary between government and private individuals.

The Federal Administrative Dispute Resolution Act describes arbitration as a


common means of dispute resolution in administrative proceedings whenever all
parties consent. The Federal Administrative Dispute Resolution Act restricts
resorting to alternative dispute resolution methods in the following circumstances:

 when a matter significantly affects persons or organizations who are not parties
to the proceeding,
 when a matter involves significant question of government policy,
 when full public record of the proceeding is important, or
 when an agency must maintain continuing jurisdiction over the matter.

Alternative dispute resolution is also refused for maintaining the precedential


value of a decision and for maintaining established policies of special
importance.[iii]

An individual who aids the parties in resolving a dispute is known as neutral. A


neutral must have no conflict of interest with the issue in controversy. A neutral
must not voluntarily disclose any confidential communication made to him/her in
dispute resolution proceedings. Additionally s/he should not be compelled to
disclose confidential communication by discovery or compulsory
process. However, disclosure is allowed when:

 a communication is made by a non party, provided all parties to the proceedings,


both neutral and non-party, agree in writing to disclose the communication,
 a communication has already been made public,
 a communication is required by statute to be made public, or
 a court determines that disclosure is necessary to prevent injustice, violation of
law, harm to the public health or safety.

The general rule is that a confidential dispute resolution communication between


a neutral and a party is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information
Act. However, such a confidentiality provision has no effect:

 on the information and data that are necessary to document an agreement


reached or order issued pursuant to a dispute resolution proceeding,
 on gathering information for research or educational purposes, in cooperation
with other agencies, governmental entities, or dispute-resolution programs, so
long as the parties and the specific issues in controversy are not identifiable, and
 in a communication made to resolve a dispute between a neutral in a dispute
resolution proceeding and a party to or participant in such proceeding, so long as
such dispute-resolution communication is disclosed only to the extent necessary
to resolve such dispute.

However, the provision does not prevent the discovery or admissibility of any
evidence that is otherwise discoverable, merely because the evidence was
presented in the course of a dispute-resolution proceeding.[iv]

In arbitration, the disagreeing parties agree to be bound by the decision of an


independent third party. Arbitration as an alternative means for dispute
resolution can be used where parties consent. The subject matter is submitted
by a written arbitration agreement. The officer or the employee of the agency
should possess authority to enter into agreement. The Federal Arbitration Act
empowers the arbitrator to regulate the course and conduct of arbitral hearings,
administer oaths and affirmations, and compel the attendance of witnesses and
production of evidence at the hearing.[v] An arbitration agreement is enforceable
under the Federal Arbitration Act.[vi] Any person adversely affected or aggrieved
by an award made in an arbitration proceeding conducted under the
Administrative Dispute Resolution Act may bring an action for review of the
award pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act.[vii]