Common Questions About ADR

What is ADR? ADR commonly describes processes, such as facilitation, negotiation, mediation, and early neutral evaluation (or a combination of those techniques), to help disputants resolve a conflict without a formal decision by a court or agency. ADR tries to identify and meet the underlying interests of the parties in the dispute. When successful, ADR may achieve results that a court or agency may not be able to order, give the parties more ownership in the result, and reduce litigation and agency costs.

Who provides ADR? The Commission's ADR program is provided through the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Division. Trained and experienced ALJs are used as the neutrals in ADR. The parties to a formal proceeding do not have to use an ALJ. They may hire an independent contractor, at their own expense, to help them resolve their dispute.

What type of disputes may be submitted to ADR?
ADR is generally available to resolve disputes in formal proceedings pending before the CPUC. Occasionally, ADR is provided for other disputes if the disagreement is likely to be filed as a formal proceeding.

How much does ADR cost? The CPUC's ADR is provided at no cost to the parties.

What are the advantages & disadvantages of ADR? Because ADR focuses on the parties' basic interests, a dispute may be settled on terms more tailored and favorable to each of the parties. Since the process is voluntary, free, and normally confidential, parties have little "down-side" risk in trying ADR. ADR may save time and litigation expenses. Even if a complete settlement is not possible, agreement may be reached on some important points. However, ADR may require the parties to spend more time on a proceeding, and that time may be lost if a complete or partial agreement is not reached.

When is ADR available?
Normally, ADR requests should be made early in a formal proceeding. However, ADR may also be requested at any time in a formal proceeding if parties believe ADR will assist in promptly resolving the dispute. ADR also may be available for disputes that are likely to be filed as formal proceedings before the CPUC.  ADR is available to assist parties in their discovery disputes or other distinct disputes which may help advance or streamline a formal proceeding.

What types of ADR are available? The CPUC's ADR program provides facilitation, mediation, early neutral evaluation (ENE), and settlement judge services.  The most commonly used ADR process uses some combination of the foregoing techniques to assist the parties in reaching a settlement, when possible.

What happens during ADR?
Use this link to access a more detailed description of what happens during ADR.

What does it mean that ADR is usually confidential? Although parties can agree to negotiate in public, most ADR processes are confidential. This means that all participating parties, including the ALJ neutral, promise not to reveal what was said in ADR sessions. Confidentiality allows the parties to be candid with one another and to explore settlement possibilities that could not be discussed or used in public or any subsequent legal or administrative proceeding. The parties may agree that a written agreement resulting from ADR may be public. If the agreement requires CPUC approval, all or part of the agreement may need to be public.

When does ADR occur? How long does it take? ADR can occur at any time during a formal proceeding. We encourage the early use of ADR to save the parties' time and money. On occasion, ADR may be available to help resolve disputes that may be filed as formal proceedings. Most ADR sessions are completed in ½ to 2 days. Some ADR sessions continue over several weeks, with the parties meeting for a day or two at a time.

How is ADR being conducted at this time? Until further notice, all ADRs are conducted remotely using virtual meeting platforms with breakout session capability such as WebEx or telephonically.

How can I request ADR?  There are three ways to request an ADR:

1.  Simply follow this LINK and fill out the web-based ADR Request Form.

2.  Send an e-mail to

3.  Finally, you can contact the ADR Coordinator, ALJ Charles Ferguson at (415-703-3301).

Please include your name, telephone number, e-mail address, the formal proceeding number (if any), and a brief description of the dispute. Normally, requests should be made early in a formal proceeding.

ADR may also be requested at any time in a formal proceeding if parties believe ADR will assist in promptly resolving the dispute.


 Want  to learn more?  

 Call the ADR Coordinator, ALJ Charles Ferguson  (415-703-3301) or send her an email at:



Page updated 11/30/2020 DVB



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