Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Small Claims

Mediation in Small Claims

  • The Small Claims Mediation Program helps people in small claims cases see if they can reach a settlement agreeable to all participants and avoid the need for a trial.
  • Mediators do not take sides. Their job is to help the participants reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable.
  • Mediation sessions are confidential.
  • For more information, see the Small Claims Mediation brochure

How Do I...

Participate in mediation?
Most cases are assigned to mediation at the discretion of the judge.
Parties do not need an attorney to participate in small claims mediation.
Mediation sessions generally last an hour.

Keep the details of my case private?
Mediation is confidential. However, credible threats of violence and reports of abuse to children or elders are an exception to this rule.

Take next steps if the other side doesn’t follow the agreement terms?
If one side does not follow the terms of the agreement, the court will enforce the written agreement, when notified of non-compliance.

Proceed if agreement is reached in mediation?
Agreements reached in mediation will be approved by the Mediation Supervisor and entered into the Court record. All parties receive a copy of the agreement and do not need to return to the courtroom.

If either side does not abide by the terms of the agreement, the judge can order them to do so.

Proceed if agreement is not reached in mediation?
If no agreement is reached, parties will go before the judge for the next step in their case, which could be a hearing on a motion, judicial arbitration or a trial. More information about arbitration is below.

Weigh my options if no agreement is reached in mediation?
Parties who are unable to reach an agreement return to the court room and seek either a trial or judicial arbitration. The judge serves as the judicial arbitrator, if parties elect judicial arbitration. Parties may wish to consider the following information, when deciding to elect trial or judicial arbitration:


  • The Rules of Evidence are strictly followed.
  • Trial requires more time—up to twice as long as arbitration.
  • The judge makes a decision (called a verdict).
  • A judgment is entered against one or more party.
  • The verdict is appealable.

Judicial Arbitration:

  • The judicial arbitrator is not bound by the Rules of Evidence.
  • Arbitration is less time-consuming than trial.
  • An award is decided by the judicial arbitrator. The parties determine how the award will be satisfied; in other words, the parties will decide on a payment plan.
  • No judgment is entered in the court record. Instead, an award is decided by the arbitrator.
  • The arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
  • A judgment can be obtained later if a party breaches the plan to honor the award.
  • Both parties must agree to this option. If one party does not agree to judicial arbitration, the case will proceed to trial. Parties cannot withdraw from arbitration once it begins.


Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division

Court Building C
410 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Get Directions
Hours of Operation

8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Mediation Hours

9.00a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Mediations are held on a first-come, first-served basis, as they are sent to mediation by the courtroom.


Telephone Numbers

General Information:
(202) 879-1549