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In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs, identified as formerly slaved or descendants of enslaved people,

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Absent the consent of each party, the court can require mediation only when local rules, statutes, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the court’s inherent powers provide the necessary authority.

    Facts. Plaintiffs sought restitution stemming from Defendants directly or indirectly benefiting from slave labor. Plaintiffs indicated that they wanted to appoint a special master, and the court ordered Plaintiffs to file a Motion to Appoint a Special Master by March 14, 2003. On May 20, Plaintiffs filed a motion to appoint a mediator, although Plaintiffs noted that they were requesting a mediator or a special master. On June 11, Defendants filed a response opposing Plaintiffs’ request, and Plaintiffs never filed a Reply to Defendants’ Response – thereby waiving their right.

    Issue. The issue is whether the court should grant Plaintiffs’ motion to appoint a mediator.

    Held. The court denied Plaintiffs’ motion to appoint a mediator. Although the court, per The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998, encourages mediation to prevent costly litigation, the court can only mandate mediation in limited circumstances. In this case, there were no local rules allowing for court-ordered mediation, and the neither the ADR Act nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure grant the court the authority to compel mediation when one party did not consent. Further, the order of mediation would not fall within the scope of the court’s inherent powers, which are the powers to enact rules that would be necessary to mange the court’s affairs. Ordering mediation would not fall within that scope.

    Discussion. The court declined to establish a court-made rule to force mediation on a non-consenting party.


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