Skip to main content

Minitrial

MINITRIAL

A private, voluntary, and informal type ofalternative dispute resolution.

The minitrial is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedure that is used by businesses and the federal government to resolve legal issues without incurring the expense and delay associated with court litigation. The mini-trial does not result in a formal adjudication but is a vehicle for the parties to arrive at a solution through a structured settlement process. It is used most effectively when complex issues are at stake and the parties need or wish to maintain an amicable relationship.

Though minitrials can be arranged under rules negotiated by the parties, they usually conform to procedures used by facilitators of ADR. The parties sign an agreement consenting to a minitrial and then each chooses a management representative to sit on the panel. These representatives have the authority to negotiate a settlement. The parties also select a "neutral adviser" to sit on the panel. The adviser must be independent and impartial, as this person will moderate the minitrial. If the parties cannot agree on a neutral adviser, the ADR facilitating agency may make the selection. The parties pay an equal share of the adviser's fees and bear their own minitrial costs.

Prior to the minitrial the parties select and then provide the neutral adviser with background materials. The parties also file legal briefs and exhibits with the adviser that contain information they intend to present at what is termed the "information exchange." This exchange is, in effect, the minitrial. The parties must agree on the length of briefs and the due dates for documents.

At the information exchange each party makes presentation, and each party is entitled to make a rebuttal. As with all other procedures, the parties must either agree on the lengths of their presentations and rebuttals or let the neutral adviser set the time limits. During this information exchange the neutral adviser acts as a moderator rather than a judge. Factual witnesses and expert witnesses may also make presentations. The members of the panel may ask questions of the presenters. In addition to the lawyers representing the parties, each management representative may have advisers in attendance.

After the conclusion of the information exchange, the management representatives meet by themselves to see if they can resolve the dispute. The information exchange should have revealed the strengths and weaknesses of each party's case and motivated the representatives to settle the dispute. If they cannot resolve the dispute on their own, they may ask the neutral adviser to meet with them separately, or jointly, and give an oral opinion on the issues and the likely outcome at trial of each issue. The representatives may also ask the neutral adviser to issue a written opinion and to mediate the negotiations and settlement terms.

If an agreement is reached it is set out in writing and signed by the representatives. The agreement is legally binding on the parties. If the parties cannot settle, the proceedings will terminate 30 days after the date of the information exchange.

An important difference between a court trial and a minitrial is that the rules of evidence do not apply at the minitrial except for the rules governing privileged communications and attorney work product. Another difference is that minitrials are not recorded, so no transcript can be produced. Finally, the proceedings are totally confidential and any offers or statements made in the process are inadmissible at a court trial.

further readings

Mayer, Bernard. 2000. The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution.

New York: Jossey-Bass.

Moore, Christopher W. 2003. The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict. 3d ed. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Nolan-Haley, Jacqueline. 2001. Alternative Dispute Resolution in a Nutshell. 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Minitrial." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Minitrial." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/minitrial

"Minitrial." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/minitrial

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.