JUDGES will have the power to lead mediation in civil cases to resolve cases more quickly and cheaply under a proposed new law in Victoria.
The Judicial Resolution Conference Bill puts beyond doubt that alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation are a core function of judicial office, deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said.
The legislation was introduced to Parliament last week in an effort to bring ADR a reality in Victoria, he said.
"The community demands that Government and the courts work together to develop more flexible and innovative ways of settling civil disputes, and that's what we have achieved with this legislation," Hulls said.
Few civil disputes require the time and expense of going through the full court process to judicial determination, said Hulls.
"By harnessing the authority and knowledge of judges earlier in the process, the courts will be able to encourage a settlement as the most effective means of resolving a dispute," he said.
“The courts will have the power to set out rules governing the practices and procedures of judge-led ADR, with the confidence that their chosen procedures will be confidential and covered by a specific statutory immunity,” Hulls said.
“The independence of the judiciary is further protected by ensuring that judicial officers cannot be compelled to give evidence about what has occurred during an ADR process.
“This is necessary to maintain public confidence in the independence of the judiciary.”
The legislation fulfils the Brumby Labor Government’s commitment in Justice Statement 2 to pass legislation supporting court-conducted appropriate dispute resolution, Hulls said.