Arizona: Fast Trial and Alternative Resolution Program
As part of Arizona’s ongoing innovations in the field of civil justice, the Supreme Court of Arizona established the Committee on Civil Justice Reform in December 2015. The Committee submitted a report, A Call to Reform: The Committee on Civil Justice Reform’s Report to the Arizona Judicial Council, that contained fifteen proposals to the Arizona Judicial Council. One of the proposals recommended that the Court “implement a pilot program in Pima County under which plaintiffs can opt for a short trial in court instead of compulsory arbitration.”
In October 2017, Chief Justice Scott Bales of the Arizona Supreme Court ordered that a pilot program be implemented in Pima County called the Fast Trial and Alternative Resolution Program (FASTAR). As part of the order, the jurisdictional limit of cases subject to arbitration was lowered to one thousand dollars for the duration of the pilot program. The order further allows the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court in Pima County “to approve changes to or addition of forms as necessary to implement the FASTAR program.”
The program’s objective is “to achieve a more efficient and inexpensive, yet fair, resolution of eligible cases.”
The court administrator will assign civil cases to the FASTAR program when the plaintiff requests only monetary damages, the amount of money sought does not exceed the limit set by local rule for compulsory arbitration, the amount of money sought does not exceed $50,000 (including punitive damages but excluding interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees), and the plaintiff will not need to serve the summons and complaint on any defendant in a foreign country.
In every case in the FASTAR program, the plaintiff alone will have the choice of proceeding by Fast Trial or Alternative Resolution. There will be a judge assigned to make all legal rulings in the case and conduct the trial. The program limits discovery, sets timelines for the progress of the case (including discovery, pretrial conferences, and motions), and sets time limits for depositions of medical providers and experts and the trial.
The pilot program runs from November 1, 2017, until October 31, 2020. Annual progress reports will be submitted to the Arizona Judicial Council.