Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (10/07/1998)

Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 - Replaces Federal judicial code arbitration provisions with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provisions.

Directs each U.S. district court to: (1) authorize the use of ADR processes in all civil actions; (2) devise and implement its own ADR program to encourage and promote the use of ADR in its district; (3) examine the effectiveness of existing ADR programs and adopt appropriate improvements; and (4) retain or designate an employee or judicial officer who is knowledgeable in ADR practices and processes to implement, administer, oversee, and evaluate the court's ADR program.

Authorizes the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to assist the district courts in the establishment and improvement of ADR programs.

(Sec. 4) Directs each district court to: (1) require that litigants in all civil cases consider the use of an ADR process at an appropriate stage in the litigation; and (2) provide litigants in all civil cases with at least one ADR process. Allows any district court that elects to require the use of ADR in certain cases to do so only with respect to mediation, early neutral evaluation, and, if the parties consent, arbitration. Authorizes each court to exempt from requirements of this section cases in which arbitration would not be appropriate. Requires each court to provide for the confidentiality of ADR processes and to prohibit disclosure of confidential dispute resolution communications.

(Sec. 5) Requires each district court that authorizes the use of ADR processes to adopt appropriate processes for making neutrals available for use by the parties for each category of process offered. Sets forth provisions regarding neutral selection, qualifications, and training.

(Sec. 6) Authorizes a district court to allow the referral to arbitration of any civil action pending before it, when the parties consent, except where: (1) the action is based on an alleged violation of a right secured by the Constitution; (2) jurisdiction is based on Federal civil rights and elective franchise provisions; or (3) the relief sought consists of money damages exceeding $150,000. Directs the district court to establish interim procedures to ensure that consent to arbitration is freely and knowingly obtained and that no party or attorney is prejudiced for refusing to participate in arbitration.

(Sec. 7) Empowers ADR arbitrators to: (1) conduct arbitration hearings; (2) administer oaths and affirmations; and (3) make awards. Requires district courts to establish standards for arbitrator certification. Entitles arbitrators in an ADR program to the immunities and protections that the law accords to persons serving in a quasi-judicial capacity.

(Sec. 8) Makes Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 (relating to subpoenas) applicable to subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence at an arbitration hearing.

(Sec. 9) Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) filing procedures and the effect of an arbitration award and judgment; (2) the sealing of such award until the court enters its final judgment or the action has otherwise terminated; and (3) filing deadlines, restoration to the court docket, and the exclusion of evidence of arbitration with respect to a trial de novo of arbitration awards.

(Sec. 10) Directs the district court to establish the amount of compensation that each neutral shall receive for services rendered.

(Sec. 11) Authorizes appropriations.