ADR Program
Office of the Clerk
United States District Court
Northern District of California
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco CA 94102


ADR in the Northern District

The Northern District provides one of the oldest and most well-respected ADR programs in the United States. The program has received numerous awards and accolades from users.

Most civil cases are automatically assigned at filing to the ADR Multi-Option Program under ADR Local Rule 3. In advance of the initial case management conference, parties and counsel review and confer about several ADR options:

Program legal staff are available to help parties choose an option by phone conference, and/or the assigned judge may assist the parties at the initial case management conference. Parties may also consider customized or other processes.

Questions & Answers

What is ADR and how can it help in my case?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an informal, non-binding process in which a neutral person works with the lawyer and the parties to help them settle the case and/or streamline the litigation. The Court offers a range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, including mediation, early neutral evaluation, and judicial settlement conferences. Each ADR process offers at least some advantages over traditional litigation. Read more …

How does the Northern District use ADR in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cases?

ADA Access cases are governed by General Order 56, which sets forth a special protocol requiring early disclosures of specified information, a stay of discovery and other proceedings, and a joint site inspection and settlement meeting. If the parties do not resolve the matter on their own, a mandatory mediation is scheduled. Only if mediation fails to resolve the case does it proceed to a Case Management Conference. 

How can I request an excuse from the requirement of personal attendance at an ADR session?

A person required to attend an ADR session may be excused from attending in person only after a showing that personal attendance would impose an extraordinary or otherwise unjustifiable hardship. See ADR Local Rule 5-10 (ENE) or 6-10 (Mediation). The request must be made, no fewer than 14 days before the date set for the session, by letter to the ADR Magistrate Judge (sent care of the ADR Unit or emailed to, simultaneously copying all counsel and the neutral. The letter must:

  1. Set forth all considerations that support the request;
  2. State realistically the amount in controversy in the case;
  3. Identify by name and title or status the individual(s) seeking to be excused;
  4. Identify by name and title or status all those persons who will attend;
  5. Identify by name and title or status the person(s) with decision-making authority, and
  6. Indicate whether the other party or parties and the neutral join in or object to the request.

The request must not be filed or disclosed to the assigned judge.

How can I request an extension of an ADR deadline?

To extend the deadline to complete an ADR Process, the parties must obtain permission from the assigned judge. The ADR Unit has no authority to extend any case deadlines. If a neutral has been appointed, the parties should consult with the neutral before submitting a stipulation and order setting a new deadline.