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The Court's power to order mediation is grounded in Rule 16.1 and the Guidelines, which do not establish any express limitations on that authority. The matter is left to the Court's discretion, limited by the bounds of its inherent powers.
Defendant Tenacious Holdings, Inc. ("Tenacious") filed a Motion for Referral to Court-Annexed Mediation ("Mot."). Plaintiff United States ("United States" or "Government") opposes the motion. The United States brought this penalty case against Tenacious seeking penalties for negligent misclassification of work gloves. Prior to the initiation of this action, Tenacious had already brought an action challenging the proper classification of the same work gloves at issue in this case.
Should the motion for for referral to mediation be granted?
In evaluating whether mediation may assist in the orderly and expeditious disposition of this case, the Court has given careful consideration to the objections of the government. Although the government is opposed to the idea that mediation may be successful, the Court is mindful that "the results of mandatory mediation resemble those achieved in voluntary mediation in terms of settlement rates and party satisfaction." Tenacious is correct that mediation is more likely to be successful given that the amount in dispute here is relatively low and the tariff provision at issue is no longer in effect and therefore resolution of this case is unlikely to impact future cases. Noting these practical factors does not suggest that the case is unimportant, merely that it may be amenable to early resolution. Ordering mediation is consistent with Rule 16.1 and the Guidelines. Since there are no fees for court-annexed mediation in the CIT, the financial concerns that sometimes arise with mediation referrals are inapplicable. Referral to mediation will not cause any procedural unfairness, since the discovery issues at the core of the government's concerns will be fully addressable by order of the Court should mediation be unsuccessful. Although the Court acknowledges the government's concerns about mediating without the robust information that it would have after the completion of discovery, the Court does not agree that mediation is bound to fail at this stage. Many cases are resolved in mediation prior to the production of all discovery, and Rule 16.1 and the Guidelines clearly contemplate referrals to mediation prior to the completion of discovery. The government cannot accurately prejudge what information Tenacious may produce in the confidential setting of mediation; if the government approaches the process with good faith, as the Court expects it to do, it may be surprised to find that the case is more amenable to disposition than the government fears.