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RULE §155.351Mediation

(a) Requesting mediation.

  (1) A party may request mediation in writing or orally during a prehearing conference or hearing.

  (2) A request for mediation must be based on a good faith belief that the parties may be able to resolve all or a portion of their dispute in mediation.

  (3) A party may object to a request for mediation orally or in writing.

  (4) Mediation may not be used as a delay or discovery tactic.

  (5) Mediation does not stay an existing procedural schedule unless ordered by the presiding judge.

  (6) A judge may refer a case to mediation without agreement of all parties.

  (7) An agency may refer a case for mediation only.

(b) Evaluation for Mediation.

  (1) A party may request, or the presiding judge may order, that a mediator evaluate whether a case is appropriate for mediation. The presiding judge will refer the case to the SOAH ADR Team Leader for assignment of a mediation evaluator.

  (2) The mediation evaluator may conduct confidential, ex parte communications with the parties during the course of the evaluation.

  (3) The mediation evaluator will make a written recommendation to the presiding judge indicating whether the case is appropriate for mediation as of the time of the evaluation. The written recommendation will be served on all parties.

(c) Referral to mediation.

  (1) If a request for mediation is granted, the presiding judge will refer the case to the SOAH ADR Team Leader for assignment of a mediator, unless the parties have notified the judge that they have agreed upon a non-SOAH mediator qualified in accordance with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Chapter 154 and that they will be responsible for any costs and expenses of the non-SOAH mediator.

  (2) The referral order may include requirements to facilitate the mediation.

(d) Assignment of SOAH mediators.

  (1) The SOAH ADR Team Leader will assign a qualified judge or judges to serve as mediator or co-mediators.

  (2) A party may object to an appointed mediator. Upon a timely showing of good cause for the objection, the SOAH ADR Team Leader will appoint another qualified judge to serve as mediator or co-mediator.

  (3) The appointed mediator will not serve as presiding judge in the case.

(e) Use of non-SOAH mediators.

  (1) Parties who agree to retain a non-SOAH qualified mediator shall notify the presiding judge within ten days of the mediator's retention.

    (A) The notice must include the name, address, and telephone number of the non-SOAH mediator selected; a statement that the parties have entered into an agreement with the mediator regarding the mediator's rate and method of compensation; and an affirmation that the mediator is qualified to serve according to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Chapter 154.

    (B) The presiding judge shall issue an order specifying the date by which the mediation must be completed.

  (2) When a presiding judge refers a TCEQ case to mediation, the mediation will be conducted by a TCEQ mediator unless a party or TCEQ's Senior Mediator requests that SOAH conduct the mediation. TCEQ enforcement cases shall not be referred to mediation except on request of the Executive Director's representative.

(f) Confidentiality of mediation.

  (1) The mediator may conduct confidential, ex parte communications with the parties during the course of the mediation.

  (2) All communications in a mediation are confidential and subject to the provisions of Tex. Gov't Code §2009.054 and TRE 408.

  (3) The mediator shall not communicate about the mediation with the presiding judge except to disclose in a written report, copied to all parties, whether the parties attended the mediation, whether the matter settled, and any other stipulations or matters the parties agree to be reported.

  (4) The mediator shall not be required to testify about communications that occur in mediation or to produce documents submitted to the mediator.

(g) Agreements reached in mediation.

  (1) Agreements reached by the parties in mediation shall be reduced to writing and signed by the parties before the end of the mediation, if possible.

  (2) Whether an agreement signed by a governmental entity is subject to disclosure shall be determined in accordance with applicable law.

(h) Limits on mediator's authority.

  (1) A mediator has no authority to order the parties to settle their dispute.

  (2) A mediator has no authority to issue orders in a case referred to mediation. Deadlines in the case may be extended only by order of the presiding judge.

(i) This section does not limit the parties' ability to settle cases without mediation.

Source Note: The provisions of this §155.351 adopted to be effective November 26, 2008, 33 TexReg 9451; amended to be effective January 1, 2017, 41 TexReg 8593; amended to be effective November 29, 2020, 45 TexReg 8295

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