One alternative to trying a case in court is mediation, a process where an impartial third party, called a mediator, referees the dispute between the parties and suggests possible solutions. The parties themselves actually reach an agreement as to how to resolve their dispute. Mediation is voluntary, and the parties are not required to reach an agreement.
North Carolina has an extensive private mediation program that operates independently of the court system. Dispute settlement centers around the state rely on trained volunteers to serve as mediators. Although many of the centers’ cases are generated privately, they also receive referrals from the district court on minor criminal matters in which mediation between the offender and victim might resolve the matter.
Another alternative to trying a case in court in North Carolina is court-ordered arbitration. Arbitration is submission of a dispute to a third party who renders a decision after hearing arguments and reviewing evidence. Arbitration is generally less formal and less time consuming than going to court.
Unlike mediation, the arbitrator actually decides the outcome of the case rather than just helping the parties to negotiate. A party who is not satisfied with the arbitrator’s decision has a right to have the case heard by the district or superior court.