This program allows the parties to meet with an independent attorney who will give their opinion about the strengths and weaknesses in the case, and talk about what might happen if the case went to trial. Evaluators can also help people plan for ways to save time and money as they go through the discovery process (sharing information about the case). This program does not include negotiation or settlement discussions. Instead, the parties may use the evaluation information in their own settlement negotiations or another ADR process (such as mediation).
- Choosing an evaluator: Parties must get a current list of neutral case evaluators from the ADR Programs office. To choose an evaluator, one party (such as the plaintiff) may circle the panel members they want, or cross off names of panel members they do not want, before sending that list to the other party.
- Evaluation statements: Before evaluation, each party must submit a statement (no more than 5 pages) that explains their side of the dispute. Send this to the other parties and the evaluator at least 5 court days before the first evaluation conference.
- Attendance: Unless excused by the assigned judge, ALL parties must attend the neutral case evaluation conference.
- Fees: Neutral Case Evaluators on the Contra Costa Court panel do not charge for the first half hour of scheduling and preparing for the evaluation. They also do not charge for the first two hours of the evaluation session. If the parties choose to continue working with the evaluator longer than two hours, they must pay the evaluator's regular fees. If the evaluator charges a deposit, he or she must give back whatever is left after counting all the time spent preparing for or doing the evaluation. Parties can ask for evaluation fees to be waived (canceled) if their court fees have also been waived.