The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, concerned about the increasing time and expense to settle government-contract claims, examined alternatives to the traditional method of resolving disputes before boards of contract appeals. The option that it chose was the mini-trial, a voluntary, expedited, and nonjudicial process whereby the top management officials of each party meet to resolve a dispute.
The Corps of Engineers adapted the mini-trial to best suit its own organizational needs. This article ~escribes the factors that were considered in designing the mini-trial and the Corps' experience with the process over the past few years.
A Chinese proverb says that "going to law is losing a cow for the sake of a cat." Although the government rarely litigates over a cow, the time and cost of litigation has escalated substantially over the years. In the government-contracting area, the present administrative appeal process for contract claims is neither timely nor inexpensive. Typically, a contract claim docketed before a board of contract appeals will consume years of effort until resolution. For the claimant, the cost of litigation, delays in receiving a decision, and the disruption to corporate management have made the present administrative system unsatisfactory.