Several weeks ago, I posted a blog about the proposals voted on by the California Law Revision Commission to make certain changes to mediation confidentiality in California. At its August 8, 2015 meeting, the Commission proposed creating several exceptions to mediation confidentiality that would allow; (1) Both lawyers representing clients and attorney mediators to be sued for malpractice and/or misconduct; (2) Both lawyers representing clients and attorney mediators to be subject to discipline by the State Bar for misconduct; (3) The use of an in camera screening process; (4) All relevant evidence to be admitted both to prove and disprove a claim; (5) Misconduct both within and outside of mediation to be at issue; and (6) Conduct in a professional capacity only to be at issue.
The Commission rejected the use of a cooling off period after a settlement agreement is signed at mediation (such as is used in certain employment disputes) and also rejected the ability of the parties to unwind the agreement where misconduct is alleged.
The Commission did not decide whether these exceptions should apply while the dispute is still pending.
Needless to say, many, many , many comments were submitted to the Commission in the weeks following its vote. Most of them opposed creating any exception to mediation confidentiality. Others objected to the disparate treatment of mediators who happen to be attorneys and mediators who are not attorneys. While the former could be subject to discipline and civil litigation, the latter were entirely omitted from any exceptions and thus, still, completely under the umbrella of the mediation confidentiality statutes. Still others raised other very thoughtful and insightful points. All of these comments may be found at: (1) Memo 2015-46; (http://www.clrc.ca.gov/pub/2015/MM15-46.pdf); (2)Memo 2015-45 (http://www.clrc.ca.gov/pub/2015/MM15-45.pdf); (3) Memo 2015-46 Supp. 1 (http://www.clrc.ca.gov/pub/2015/MM15-46s1.pdf); (4) Memo 2015-45- Supp 1 (http://www.clrc.ca.gov/pub/2015/MM15-45s1.pdf); and (5) Memo 2015-46- Supp 2 (http://www.clrc.ca.gov/pub/2015/MM15-46s2.pdf)
As a result of this barrage of comments, the Commission back tracked at its October 8, 2015 meeting. It decided to exclude attorney mediators from its recommendations such that any exception to mediation confidentiality will apply to attorneys representing clients only and not to attorneys who are the mediators. The Commission recognized mediators have long had quasi-judicial immunity and further that under Evidence Code Section 703.5 mediators are incompetent to testify. Rather than undertake a mammoth revision of these long standing propositions, the Commission agreed to leave them in place.
The Commission also voted that any exception to mediation confidentiality shall not apply to any proceeding to enforce the settlement agreement. Thus, a litigant who attempts to argue that she was coerced into settling, was under duress et cetera will not be able to raise this argument in response to a motion to enforce the settlement agreement.
The votes taken at this meeting were solely for the purpose of directing the Staff Counsel to begin to draft legislation. This process still has a LONG way to go. The Staff Counsel must draft the legislation, the Commission must draft a comment on each section, a narrative explanation to the proposal must be also drafted, the entire package so to speak must then be made public for comment for 2-3 months, then changes may be made based on the those comments…. And then it is sent to the California legislature where it goes through that process. Without doubt, any change to California’s mediation confidentiality statutes is at least 1-2 years away.
For complete information on this topic, visit the California Law Revision Commission webpage and look for Study K-402- “Mediation Confidentiality and Attorney Malpractice and Other Misconduct” ; http://www.clrc.ca.gov/K402.html
The next meeting of the California Law Review Commission is on Thursday, December 10, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in Los Angeles, Ca. Stay tuned for what happens next!
… Just something to think about.