In news that has stunned the alternative dispute resolution community in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Trial Court has terminated its mediation contracts with programs approved to provide services in courts throughout the Commonwealth.
This move comes in response to the decision by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick to order deep cuts in the state budget to offset a projected revenue shortfall of roughly $1 billion. Mediation programs are but one more casualty of the fiscal crisis Massachusetts, like many other states around the U.S., currently faces.
As a mediator — particularly one who devoted time to promoting the use of court-connected ADR as a member of the Trial Court Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution — I feel this blow acutely. It dismays me to see mediation devalued in this way. It is, in Massachusetts at least, expendable not essential.
Fortunately, elsewhere in the U.S., courts are ramping up their commitment to ADR, not downsizing it. Examples include foreclosure mediation programs rolled out in New Jersey, Ohio, and Florida.
How disappointing to learn that Massachusetts, the place where ADR pioneer Frank Sander had his vision of the multi-door courthouse, has elected to slam shut one doorway to justice.
Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.
A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals. She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs. She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.
web site: http://dianelevin.com