Mediation is voluntary in the sense that participants are free to reach their own agreement regarding the dispute at hand and the disposition of the lawsuit. Likewise, they are free to reject a proposal and, with the concurrence of the mediator, to bring the mediation process to a close.

In addition, participation in the mediation process itself is, in most cases, voluntary. Local Rule 16.3 requires counsel to meet early in the litigation process to discuss, among other things, whether mediation might be appropriate in the case; and to report their views to the Court shortly after their meeting. The Court may encourage parties to submit to the process in certain suitable cases. And it has the authority, under Mediation Local Rule 84.4, to require participation after giving the parties an opportunity to be heard on the question. In practice, however, the Court generally defers to the parties in deciding whether or not to refer a case to the mediation program.