Understanding how and why appellate mediation could ever serve as a practical resolution tool. Presumably, settlement negotiations were not fruitful before trial. One party has already received a favorable ruling in the case. The answer, though sometimes surprising, is fairly simple. A global case resolution through appellate mediation can save both the parties and the courts considerable time and valuable resources and can promptly bring to an end a dispute that could otherwise potentially drag on for years to come. Understanding this brief overview of the appellate mediation programs currently being utilized in Florida’s federal and state courts of appeal, to dissipate any negative preconceptions regarding appellate mediation, and to suggest that, in certain cases, appellate mediation can serve as a valuable tool in settling a dispute.
Appellate mediation can serve various functions depending on the specific circumstances and nuances of a particular case. In many cases, appellate mediation brings the parties together in order to educate them on the appellate process in general and to inform them of how appellate courts are likely to address the issues on appeal. An appellate mediator is likely to bring to the parties’ attention the fact that an appellate court will not re-try the case or take additional evidence, and will often point out to the parties that the appellate court’s jurisdiction is limited in scope to those narrow issues brought before it under a specific legal standard of review. This opportunity to discuss the ramifications of the applicable standard of review, the merits of the case from an appellate point of view, and the inherent risks of proceeding on appeal can be invaluable in helping to remove a client’s unrealistic expectations. In this way, it is similar to mediation at the trial level.
Although, it may seem unproductive and counterintuitive to mediate a case where a winner and loser have already been decided, it must be remembered that so long as a case is pending on appeal, a party’s victory may be short lived. For this reason, the benefits of mediating a case at the appellate level should not be ignored. A practitioner should recognize and give serious consideration to the pros and cons of whether appellate mediation might be a useful tool. With a realistic appreciation of the inherent risks involved in any appellate proceeding, combined with effective advocacy, it may be possible to transform an angry appellant or appellee, who is facing the prospect of never-ending litigation, into a satisfied client with a settled case.