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Public needs to be better informed about mediation

I’ve attached an interesting article from the Northwest Indiana News.  What I find fascinating about the article is that people are not using mediation even when provided free.  This indicates to me that the courts, legal and mediation professions have done a poor job in educating the public about mediation and its benefits.

Few low-income couples tapping mediation fund

Service could save time and money in divorce/paternity cases


This story ran on nwitimes.com on Sunday, December 24, 2006 12:16 AM CST

VALPARAISO | Only eight couples this year took advantage of a county program offering free or subsidized divorce mediation services to low-income residents.

Most of the money, which is generated through a $20 fee on all divorce filings, was spent to mediate paternity disputes involving couples who were unmarried when they had children, said Family Court Supervisor Alison Cox.

Sixty-six families received paternity mediation assistance this year through the county’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Fund Plan, according to an annual report compiled by Cox.

Porter County magistrates Katherine Forbes and James Johnson, who handle most of the county’s divorce cases, said they don’t require mediation, but do encourage it.

Successful mediation not only reduces the need for court time, but also provides an opportunity to discuss issues that might not be allowed in a courtroom, Forbes said.

“I can’t imagine what the docket would be like without it,” Johnson said.

Divorcing couples interested in the mediation assistance program do not have to be referred by the county magistrate or judges, according to Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper.

Individuals can be referred by their attorneys or apply on their own through the family court division at the Porter County Juvenile Probation Department, she said.

Couples with children are eligible for assistance if they fall below 130 percent of the federal poverty index, but exceptions will be considered, according to the program guidelines.

While Cox said the program is capable of handling more divorce referrals, it operated in the red this year, according to the annual report. The program took in $14,360 during 2006 and paid out $15,574, leaving a balance of $26,150.

The family court program relies on the ADR income and Cox said the division is accomplishing a lot with the money. Cox said she and two other staff members in the juvenile probation department respond immediately to requests from the court for mediation in paternity cases.

The trio has a 91 percent success rate in paternity mediation cases, she said.

Cox and the other two staff mediators also provide the service at a fraction of the typical cost, she said. The compensation for staff members amounts to $22 to $25 per hour, she said, as compared to the $95-an-hour compensation rate spelled out in the plan for qualified attorneys.

The family court staff also conducts mediation in child abuse and neglect cases, and has provided mediation training for 13 area attorneys, who in return were required to volunteer their services, Harper said. This effort helped foster a greater awareness and increased use of mediation in the county, she said.

“It worked. It absolutely worked,” Harper said.

Mediation so popular?

German machine-guns his way into mediation talk at Mercedes Benz in Hamburg

Germany – A 64 year old German client machine gunned his way into a Mercedes Benz workshop in Hamburg (Germany) after mediation over repair costs failed.

The incident was reported by AP Germany on Saturday. Apparently the marksman had come to negotiate repair costs for his vehicle at a Mercedes Benz workshop. After mediation talks had failed, the man opened fire on the owner of the workshop and his son. Nobody was killed or hurt in the incident.

Civil Unions Law Pass the NJ Legislature

On December 14, both the NJ Senate and Assembly passed the Civil Unions bills.  Governor Corzine is expected to sign it into law.

More than Mediation

Here’s an interesting editorial detailing how mediation helped numerous parties come together to resolve the sexual abuse lawsuits against a Catholic Diocese in Oregon.  The original can be found here.
More than mediation
A Register-Guard Editorial
Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The word “mediation” is hardly sufficient to describe the effort required to forge Monday’s announced settlement resolving nearly 150 lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. The suits were filed by people claiming to have been sexually abused by priests in Western Oregon.

Because of an unnecessary gag order on attorneys and all parties involved in the case, details of the settlement and the bankruptcy reorganization of the archdiocese won’t be available until later this month. But the mere fact that U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan and Lane County Circuit Judge Lyle Velure managed to resolve all but 20 claims and to complete a reorganization plan that could allow the archdiocese to resume normal operations after three years of bankruptcy represents a remarkable achievement.

Consider the formidable challenges that confronted Hogan and Velure when they began secret talks with parties in the case last August: Two judges with very different temperaments and working across jurisdictional lines found themselves confronted with a disparate group of plaintiffs and an archdiocese that had very different ideas about what constituted just compensation for victims of sexual abuse by priests.

The legal landscape could hardly have been more jumbled with obstacles. There were claims filed on insurance policies written three decades ago. There were the complexities of Roman Catholic canon law, which the archdiocese claimed prevented it from selling individual parishes’ property and schools to satisfy judgments. There were the claimants who insisted on their cases going to trial, and the possibility of claims that have yet to be filed.

Then there were the wrenching dynamics of human emotion: The anguish of victims of clergy sexual abuse who rightly regarded just settlements as an integral part of the healing process. The anxiety of church members uncertain if their local parishes and schools might be sold to pay legal claims. The frustration of church officials struggling to balance the need to keep the archdiocese intact with their responsibility to justly compensate victims.

If the reorganization plan is accepted next week by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Velure and Hogan will have succeeded in resolving one of the most difficult mass litigations in Oregon history. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment that vividly demonstrates the important role that judges can, and often do, play by resolving legal disputes before they go to trial, devouring vast amounts of time and money and leaving deep emotional scars.

Thanks to the efforts of Hogan and Velure, the parties involved in the abuse cases will be spared months, perhaps years, of protracted and costly litigation. Victims will be able to move on with their lives, the archdiocese can emerge from the cloud of bankruptcy, local parishes and schools will be able to plan with certainty for their futures, and sex-abuse victims who have yet to come forward will find resources available to settle their claims.

This many-sided and far-reaching resolution will gain a rightful place in Oregon history.

Mediation Works in Hong Kong

From the Hong Kong Standard.  The original can be found here.

Mediation seen as key to disputes