Clinton orders agencies to use alternative dispute resolution
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The government must now seek alternative methods of dispute resolution in all civil cases in which it is involved, according to an executive order signed by President Clinton in early February. The new procedures would occur before formal court proceedings and would include settlement conferences, negotiations and arbitration.
The order ends a ban on federal agencies participation in binding arbitration. The President stated that the use of arbitration, which will be overseen by the Justice Department, will promote justice and efficiency in government civil litigation.
Alternative methods of dispute resolution required under the new order include pre-filing notice of a complaint before the government initiates any civil action, settlement conferences before the commencement of a suit, and streamlined discovery requests.
Any agency that adjudicates a dispute must follow the recommendations of the Administrative Conference of the United States as outlined in a report, “Case Management as a Tool for Improving Agency Adjudication.”
In addition, the executive order includes a call to agencies to develop government pro bono and volunteer services. The services would be coordinated and encouraged by various agencies, but performed on government employees’ own time.
It is unclear how the move to arbitration will affect the availability of information concerning government litigation under the Freedom of Information Act. Before it closed its doors in 1995 when its federal funding was eliminated, the Administrative Conference had recommended to Congress that documents generated during arbitration be exempt from disclosure under the act. (Executive Order 12988)