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Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: Mediated Negotiations

by Victoria Pynchon

From Settle It Now Negotiation Blog

Victoria Pynchon

(photo by Angie Schwendemann's daughter Christina)

We were just talking yesterday about deception in negotiations. 

But how about deception by the mediator? 

Take this 2000 mediate.com article by JAMS neutral and former U.S. Magistrate John W. CooleyDefining the Ethical Limits of Acceptable Deception in Mediation for a spin.

This article proceeds from the premise that consensual deception is the essence of caucused mediation.

This statement should not come as a shock to the reader when it is considered in the context of the nature and purpose of caucusing. Actually, it is quite rare that caucused mediation, a type of informational game, occurs without the use of deception by the parties, by their lawyers, and/or by the mediator in some form. This is so for several reasons.

First, a basic groundrule of the information system operating in any mediated case in which there is caucusing is that confidential information conveyed to the mediator by any party cannot be disclosed by the mediator to anyone (with narrowly limited exceptions).

This means that:

  1. each party in mediation rarely, if ever, knows whether another party has disclosed confidential information to the mediator; and 
  2. if confidential information has been disclosed, the nondisclosing party never knows the specific content of that confidential information and whether and/or to what extent that confidential information has colored or otherwise affected communications coming to the nondisclosing party from the mediator.

In this respect, each party in a mediation is an actual or potential victim of constant deception regarding confidential information -- granted, agreed deception -- but nonetheless deception. This is the central paradox of the caucused mediation process. The parties, and indeed even the mediator, agree to be deceived as a condition of participating in it in order to find a solution that the parties will find "valid" for their purposes.

Biography


Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all types of business torts and contract disputes.  During her two years of full-time neutral practice, she has co-mediated both mandatory and voluntary settlement conferences with Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Alexander Williams, III and Victoria Chaney.  As a result of her work with Judge Chaney in the Complex Court at Central Civil West, Ms. Pynchon has gained significant experience mediating construction defect litigation.  Ms. Pynchon received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the U.C. Davis School of Law. 



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Website: www.settlenow.com

Additional articles by Victoria Pynchon