Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Civil CDR Program Information

Civil cases rarely go to trial. This is because of complementary dispute resolution (CDR) programs. CDR programs are an alternative to formal trial. 

CDR is also available for mediating economic aspects of family law.

On This Page


Finding the right CDR for you

Almost 98 percent of all cases are resolved without a trial.  Most civil cases can be resolved in a CDR program. The nature of your case will determine which CDR program is the best fit. Mediation and arbitration are the most common. There are several other programs to consider as well. 

Below you can learn more about CDR programs and find the program that is best for your case.

CDR can either be mandated by the court or requested. New Jersey Court Rules 1:40 discuss CDR. Attorneys are required to know about CDR programs and inform their clients of them.

CDR programs offer many benefits. You can get your case resolved faster than a traditional trial. CDR programs are often a less expensive way to resolve the dispute and allow for early and direct communication between the parties. Through CDR programs, both parties may better understand the main issues of the dispute. It also helps maintain a productive relationship. 

CDR proceedings are confidential, as most take place off the record. CDR also lets you participate more directly in the outcome of your case. It can also reduce the stress and anxiety of going to trial.


This process involves a trained, neutral third party to help you negotiate your case. They do not make a decision on the case. Instead, they help you and other party reach an agreement on your own. 

Consider mediation when:

  • You and the other party have a prior relationship. 
  • There are significant emotions involved. 
  • You want to find common ground.
  • You and the other party want to settle the case to save time and money. 
  • There is a subjective question of the facts of the case. 
  • You want to maintain confidentiality of the issues involved.

Mediation is not recommended when:

  • You or other party are not ready to settle. 
  • You and your lawyer cannot negotiate on your own.
  • There are still substantial issues to investigate. 

Get full mediation program details, including forms, contacts, and more. 


In arbitration, a neutral third-party reviews the case and renders a decision.

Consider arbitration when:

  • You need an independent decision to the settle the case. 
  • A third-party is needed to determine the extent of damages and credibility of witnesses. 
  • You or the other party want to go to litigation. 
  • There is no prior relationship. 
  • You want a quick resolution. 
  • You want to settle the case quickly to save time and money. 
  • The case involves auto negligence, personal injury, or commercial lawsuits.  

Arbitration is not recommended when:

  • You want to improve communication.
  • You or the other party want to find common ground.
  • You want to work towards a solution with the other party.

In voluntary binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final. In regular arbitration, you or the other party can appeal the outcome. In VBA, the decision is legally binding and cannot be appealed.

VBA is used for lemon law cases. It can also be used for verbal threshold cases in which a car accident victim seeks noneconomic damages.

Get full arbitration program details, including forms, contacts, and more. 

Bar Paneling

Bar paneling is a CDR process where two or more attorneys hear the case. The panel provides a non-binding recommendation for a resolution. This includes a settlement range.

Bar paneling proceedings are confidential. They usually take place at court facilities. Attorney panelists serve pro bono (free of charge). Most bar paneling proceedings occur on the trial date. 

Summary Jury Trials

A summary jury trial (SJT) gives you an idea of how a jury would decide on your case. Everything is streamlined to ensure a speedy outcome. Usually only the plaintiff and defendant give live testimony. Attorneys use reports and depositions to make their case. Trials take between one half and one full day. 

The jury is unaware they are participating in an experimental trial. This makes their verdict more authentic. After the verdict is rendered, the jury is told the verdict is non-binding. They are then asked to participate in an informal discussion with the parties. This helps you gain insight about the merits of your case. The jury’s suggested verdict is often used in settlement negotiations. 

Consider SJT when:

  • There is a substantial issue or amount of money at stake. 
  • You and the other party strongly disagree on how a jury will decide. 
  • You or the other party do not want to settle and want your “day in court.”
  • You want an idea of a verdict but prefer to negotiate settlement out of court.

SJT is not recommended when:

  • You want a non-binding verdict.
  • A full trial can finish in two days or less. 
  • Other CDR programs can help.

Expedited Jury Trials

Expedited jury trials (EJT) is a streamlined process similar to the summary jury trial. The difference is that the jury delivers a verdict. You can still appeal the verdict. 

The process allows both you, your attorney(s), and the court to save time and money. Typically, only the plaintiff and defendant give live testimony. This is helpful when witnesses are unavailable. Also, if the amount at stake does not justify the cost of witnesses, EJT can help. Attorneys then make arguments from expert reports and depositions. Opening statements are limited to 15 minutes and summations are limited to 30 minutes.

Juries only consist of six members. Each party is only allowed three peremptory challenges during jury selection. Both parties agree to allow a decision by five jury members if one juror is dismissed. 

Consider EJT when:

  • There is a substantial amount at stake.
  • You or the other party do not want to settle and want your “day in court.”
  • You want a to reach a verdict by jury.

EJT is not recommended when:

  • A full trial can finish in two days or less.
  • Other CDR programs can be used.

Special Civil Part Settlement Programs

The three main types of cases heard in the special civil part are civil actions (“DC” Docket), small claims (“SC” Docket), and landlord/tenant actions (“LT” Docket). 

Settlement programs are available for contested special civil part cases. These include mediation and other forms of pretrial settlement. In these programs, a neutral third-party works with litigants. They assist in finding a resolution to the case that works for everyone. This avoids having to go before a judge. 

Private Options for Dispute Resolution

There are private firms and businesses that provide resolution programs. These include mediation, arbitration, fact-finding, conciliation, negotiation, and private trials. Experienced attorneys, retired judges, or expert professionals often serve as a neutral third-party. Nearly all private dispute resolution services charge fees. 

CDR Contacts and Resources

Find your CDR administrator on this statewide list of arbitration and CDR point persons.  

CDR programs allow people to solve civil disputes without going to trial. As trials are often costly and time-consuming, these programs help both the court system and the parties involved. The “Resolving Cases without a Trial ” publication provides valuable information on the programs for both attorneys and their clients. 

Lemon Law cases involve defective cars or other products that do not work as advertised. Under CDR programs, Lemon Law cases quality for mediation, arbitration, or voluntary binding arbitration. The Lemon Law brochure breaks down how to resolve cases in CDR programs. 

The Civil Mediation Program Resource Materials document provides more detail on the program. It covers what types of cases should go to mediation and the procedures to follow.