Utah Court of Appeals - Appellate Mediation Office
The Appellate Mediation Office (AMO) has helped parties and attorneys resolve difficult situations for over twenty years. Unlike litigation and arbitration, mediation puts decision-making in the hands of those in the dispute. The parties are given a voice and are heard. They learn relevant law and about the appellate process, review the risks of continued litigation, and find options for resolution.
The AMO, while under the direction of the Utah Court of Appeals, operates independently to ensure confidentiality.
The program gives parties the chance to resolve their own disputes in a calm, welcoming environment.
Benefits of Appellate Mediation
- Provides a neutral forum in which difficult situations can be addressed and resolved.
- A wider variety of solutions are possible when compared to litigation.
- Faster, cheaper, more creative.
- Risks are examined and often eliminated.
- Relationships can be preserved and healed.
- Related litigation can also be resolved.
- Leads to a known result and finality.
- There is a high rate of compliance when parties craft the agreement.
- Even if mediated cases do not settle, people appreciate the opportunity and come away with a better understanding of the appellate process and possible results.
- There is no charge for the mediator’s services.
Why would parties want to settle a case at the appellate level?
Going through the appellate process is costly, risky, and stressful. Mediation gives parties a forum in which to examine their interests and needs, better understand the appellate process and potential outcomes, to explore a variety of options for settlement, and if it makes sense--which it often does--come to an agreement.
In addition, mediation is generally faster and cheaper than litigation, and the parties can fashion creative solutions and resolve other issues that are not part of the appeal.
Will mediation delay my appeal?
Generally, not. Mediations usually occur early in the appellate process before briefing can be set. This natural break, when the trial court record and transcript are being prepared, is when most mediations are held.
If a briefing schedule has been set when a matter is referred to mediation, sometimes the court will temporarily postpone the briefing process to allow the parties to focus on settlement and save money. Other times, counsel and the parties seek a delay in the briefing process, particularly if extra negotiation time is needed.
How is the mediation conference conducted?
As a result of the Covid pandemic, mediation conferences shifted online. Counsel and parties have grown to appreciate the convenience of remote mediations and flexibility of the format. However, mediations may be conducted in-person if counsel, the parties, the mediator and/or the court determine it to be preferable.
With remote mediations it is less common for there to be an opening session with all parties and attorneys. Generally, the mediator places the parties and their attorneys (if they have attorneys) in virtual breakout rooms and moves between or among the rooms. People can easily be placed in other rooms if helpful to the process.
Before each mediation, the mediator reads the underlying record, including key filings with the trial court/agency and the appellate court. Mediation statements/briefs are not required but if submitted, the mediator also reads those in advance.
During the mediation conference, the mediator listens to the parties and attorneys, engages in discussions about the underlying facts, pertinent legal principles and caselaw impacting the appeal, examines the strengths and weaknesses of the case, the risks, and costs of proceeding with the appeal, possible outcomes, and options for settlement. There are often multiple rounds of offers as we work towards settlement.
Are my discussions with the mediator confidential?
Yes. Statements and comments made in mediation conferences and related discussions are confidential. Such information may not be disclosed in arguments, briefs, or otherwise by the mediator, AMO staff, counsel, or the parties. If an agreement is reached and memorialized in a signed agreement, that document will dictate whether terms of the agreement may be shared or not.
The AMO is operationally separate from the Utah Court of Appeals. Matters before the mediator will be kept confidential to allow for candid discussions and to protect the parties.
Is mediation mandatory? Will the mediator pressure parties to settle a case?
Participation in mediation is mandatory but settlement is voluntary.
The mediator will facilitate communication between the parties, assist in identifying their interests and needs, and aid in the negotiation process. The decision about whether to settle is up to the parties.
Michele Mattsson, Esq.
Chief Appellate Mediator
Michele Mattsson graduated from the University of Utah with an Honors B.A. in English and from the S.J. Quinney College of Law with a J.D. She spent several years in private practice before joining the Utah Court of Appeals as a staff attorney. In 2001, Michele became the Chief Appellate Mediator. She has successfully mediated thousands of cases and sees the benefits of appellate mediation daily. Michele enjoys working with parties and attorneys and helping them through difficult, challenging situations.
Michele also believes in the importance of public service and education. She sits on numerous boards and committees, including the Utah Courts’ Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, the Utah Council on Conflict Resolution Board, the Utah Dispute Resolution Board, and community boards, including at the University of Utah. Michele also teaches classes on negotiation and mediation.
Shauna Hawley, Paralegal
Shauna Hawley became the administrative assistant for the AMO in 2013. She has a wealth of information about the operations of the mediation office and appellate courts. Shauna has a strong legal background, puts parties and counsel at ease, and is an invaluable resource for those participating in appellate mediation.