Up at 6:45 am, at my desk at 7:30 am. Spend the next thirty minutes re-reading (3rd time) both attorneys’ briefs and preparing required court documents. Leave plenty of time to arrive at the court house, at least one hour prior to convening.
Mediation commences at 10am sharp as scheduled. It becomes immediately apparent to me that the plaintiff does not speak or understand English. Plaintiff’s attorney makes it clear that he does not want to expend any additional funds at this time for an interpreter. And, plaintiffs’ attorney does not speak Spanish. Additionally, it becomes clear that plaintiff’s attorney has not prepared. He can not describe his client’s case in the most basic of details, and is furiously reading his case notes. As a side note, the case was filed March 2006
However, I am still determined to continue a meaningful mediation session. Defense counsel has agreed to give us two descriptions (of dissimilar) facts as related to him at discovery. At 10:45 am plaintiff’s counsel informs me that he needs more time to assemble his facts and talk to his client (no interpreter present) before entering into any meaningful negotiations. Defense counsel and adjuster stand up and inform plaintiff’s counsel that since meaningful mediation cannot be initiated, they are terminating the mediation session. At 11 am, all parties leave the mediation session.
How many times do we hear that if it’s free, it has no value? If the participants in this mediation session had paid the below market rate of $150.00 per hour for three hours to the mediator, do you think that that all the parties would have come prepared to enter into good faith mediation?
It is my honor to serve on the LASC pro-bono panel. My colleagues and I take enormous pride in our professional standards. Unfortunately, this professionalism is not always shared by the legal community.
For this program to continue to serve the needs of the court, this problem must be seriously and immediately addressed.
The invaluable contribution made by the mediation community to alleviate the crowded court calendar must not be disrespected. People respect what they pay for. Therefore, it is time for mediation participants to pay the mediators, and preserve the integrity of the program.
It is time for the courts to take control of a program that helps clear their calendars. The program is faced with the fact that the most experienced mediators are continually leaving the panel. The mediation program presently finds itself with unwilling pool of mediators on their panel. Cases by the hundreds have no mediators available to help clear the jam of cases filed with the court. This should not be permitted to continue. The “Decision Makers” who make policy for the LASC Mediation Program have to step up to the plate. It is no secret that the mediators want to be compensated for their contribution to the program. And the litigants of this program should have to pay to support it.
The time is now for the decision makers to inform the mediation professionals what their thoughts are. What are their plans to resolve this issue? What are their plans to insure that this program continues on a successful road? We know the decision makers are struggling with the issue of paying the mediators. However, please issue something in writing to the mediation community. We care, and we contribute. Our dedication to the program has always been professional.