Court-Connected Mediation In Massachusetts Another Casualty Of Tough Economy

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.

                        author

Diane J. Levin

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… MORE >

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