The Supreme Court has issued Administrative Matter No. 19-10-20-SC or the 2020 Guidelines for the Conduct of Court-Annexed Mediation (CAM) and Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) in Civil Cases (“Revised Guidelines”), which took effect on 1 March 2021.
The Revised Guidelines were issued in light of the amendments introduced by the 2019 Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure, which took effect on 1 May 2020, and is an update to the Consolidated CAM and JDR Guidelines issued in 2011. As noted in our article on the 2019 Amendments, Pre-trial/CAM/JDR were amended as follows:
- Marking of evidence, stipulations and comparisons with originals, are to be done during the pre-trial hearing. The pre-trial order will contain tentative schedules for CAM and JDR.
- Once the court refers the parties to CAM, it should be finished within a non-extendible period of 30 calendar days. If CAM fails, the court will determine if JDR is still necessary.
- If JDR is deemed necessary, the case will be raffled to another court who will conduct the JDR. JDR is to be conducted within a non-extendible 15 calendar days. If JDR fails, the case will be returned to the court where the case originated, for trial as scheduled in the pre-trial order. This is a shift from the previous practice of JDR being conducted by the court where the case was filed, and passed on to another court if the JDR fails.
Highlights of the Revised Guidelines
Below are some highlights worth noting in the Revised Guidelines:
- The Revised Guidelines only cover CAM and JDR in civil cases. As of present, there is no JDR for criminal cases, while CAM for criminal cases is generally provided for under the Revised Guidelines on Continuous Trial for Criminal Cases.
- Cases that must be referred to CAM are the following:
- all ordinary civil cases, civil cases covered by the Rul on Summary Procedure (i.e., ejectment), and family law cases, except those which cannot be compromised (i.e., those which involve civil status, validity of marriage, legal separation, future support and legitime);
- all special civil actions, except declaratory relief, review of Comelec and COA resolutions and final orders, certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, quo warranto, expropriation and contempt;
- claims against the estate, or distribution or partition of estate in intestate proceedings;
- intellectual property cases;
- commercial or intra-corporate controversies; and
- environmental cases
- Cases that may be referred to JDR are the following:
- cases in 1 to 5 above, if CAM fails and the court is convinced that settlement is still possible; and
- some cases appealed to the regional trial courts (i.e., forcible entry and unlawful detainer, civil cases involving title to, or possession of, real property, settlement of estate). Note: Previously, these cases undergo mandatory JDR.
- Cases that may not be referred to CAM and JDR (unless the parties agree) are the following:
- those which cannot be compromised (i.e., those which involve civil status, validity of marriage, legal separation, future support and legitime);
- petitions for habeas corpus;
- probate of a will; and
- cases with pending applications for TRO or preliminary injunction.
- The court may refer the parties to CAM and JDR at any stage of the proceedings, when either or both of the parties request, there is a significant likelihood of settlement, and there are still factual issues to be resolved.
- A JDR judge can make a non-binding impartial evaluation of the chances of the parties’ success.
- Individual parties can only appear through a representative for a valid cause, such as acts of God, force majeure or duly substantiated physical inability.
- Representatives of individual or corporate entities should have a special power of attorney, which among others, authorizes the representative to appear and negotiate without need of further approval by or notification to the principal.
- A party that fails to attend CAM or JDR or bring the required authorization without valid cause, or having full authority, refuses to exercise the same or claims that require further approval from the principal, may merit sanctions such as dismissal of plaintiff’s case, ex parte presentation of plaintiff’s evidence, contempt, or reimbursement of costs.
- CAM should not exceed 30 calendar days. JDR should not exceed 15 calendar days. Both are non-extendible.
Actions to consider
Given the above developments, clients who plan to initiate a suit should consider whether their cases will be the subject of mandatory CAM, as well as the timeline when CAM will happen (i.e., only after pre-trial). The non-extendible 30 calendar days for CAM is a welcome development, as it mitigates the usual delays brought about by this process.
Meanwhile, clients with pending cases may want to consider exploring the possibility of requesting that their cases be referred to CAM and JDR, if settlement is an option.
Clients should also keep in mind that representatives attending CAM or JDR should have the authority to settle without need of further approval by or notification to the principal.