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Department of Public Service

Glossary of Terms used in Dispute Resolution

Conciliation - Conciliation is intended to establish communications between the parties to a dispute. A neutral third party assists the participants by helping them open communication lines that will encourage further dialogue and clarify any misconceptions that may exist.

Facilitation - Here, the neutral third party supports the disputants by taking conciliation to the next level. The facilitator continues to promote communication and clarification, but also guides the participants through the problem solving process and provides procedural assistance.

Mediation - The neutral third party assists the disputants in their negotiations and collaborates with them to arrive at agreements.á The mediator has no decision-making authority, but provides substantive guidance and encourages the parties to broaden their options and expand the range of possible resolutions when impasses occur. Mediators may meet together with all of the parties, or communicate separately with the participants in private meetings called caucuses.

Ombuds Service - In this process, PSC staff are assigned to assist non-regulated third parties engaged in complaints against or disputes with regulated companies.á Parties are interviewed, files are reviewed, and suggestions are made as to how the disputants may choose to proceed. The dispute may be facilitated or mediated.

Negotiated Rule-Making - This is a procedure in which a facilitator works with various interest groups to negotiate over legislation or regulation.á If consensus is reached, the Commission can use it as the basis for proposing rules or recommending legislation.

Fact-finding - An impartial expert is authorized to investigate or evaluate particulars in a dispute and to file a report to the parties that establishes the facts in the case.á In some circumstances the fact-finder may be asked to issue a recommendation as to how the dispute might be resolved.

Early Neutral Evaluation - The parties seek to obtain a neutral interpretation of previously clarified facts.á Brief presentations of evidence and arguments are offered by the disputants to a neutral, who offers an opinion on the probable range of outcomes.á This non-binding process provides the parties with an objective view of their litigation risks.

Technical Conference - An ALJ may convene a technical conference as an alternative to the formal discovery process.á The conference provides an opportunity to work toward a common understanding of the facts in a proceeding, through expert presentations on given topics or issues and discussion designed to clarify those issues.á Technical conferences may be on or off the record, as the parties and the neutral determine.

Mini-trial - Parties to a dispute submit statements of facts, positions, and arguments to an ALJ. The ALJ then advises the parties of the likely outcome of the dispute based on the information that has been submitted. This procedure enables the parties to further assess their litigation positions in a non-binding forum.

Binding Arbitration - The neutral renders a binding decision after a process in which the disputants may present evidence and submit briefs. The details of the process, and the degree of formality, may vary from case to case. At the DPS, the neutral is usually an ALJ, whose decision takes the form of recommendations submitted to the Commission for final determination.

Mediation/Arbitration -á This is a hybrid process which affords the parties an opportunity to settle their dispute through mediation. However, the parties concur at the outset of the process that if mediation fails to result in full agreement, an arbitrator will be empowered to issue a binding decision on the remaining issues in dispute. With the agreement of the parties, the mediator and arbitrator may be the same individual(s).

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