March 2015
 

COURT ADR NEWS

Mediators Deemed "Professionals" in Texas Bankruptcy Court

A bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of Texas determined that a mediator is a professional, and therefore must be approved by the court before being hired by the parties. Mediators are professionals by the court’s definition because they have substantial discretion over issues that are central to the case. According to federal bankruptcy code, professionals must be approved by the bankruptcy court before they can be hired using estate funds. In In re Cody W. Smith, the trustee hired a mediator without seeking court permission. The court’s ruling emphasized that hiring a mediator without prior approval gave a possible appearance of cronyism as most bankruptcy mediators, including the one in this case, are former bankruptcy judges and well known to the court. Before hiring a mediator, parties in the Southern District must persuade the judge that mediation is appropriate for the case. The judge ordered that to ensure the “sun shines brightly on the appointment”, a hearing must be held to vet the ex-judge’s relationship with the sitting judge. Even then, the judge noted that the court would not have approved a mediator in this case because the attorneys were able to work together amicably.

Criminal Mediation Services for Veterans in Lubbock County, Texas

In Texas, Lubbock County is offering victim-offender mediation services for qualifying veterans. Veterans who are arrested for misdemeanors and, with District Attorney approval, felonies, are eligible to participate in mediation through the county’s Office of Dispute Resolution. The Office received county approval for the program and will answer to the courts. Law enforcement, courts, and the District Attorney’s office will refer veterans to the program. Some details of the program are still being refined. While most mediation is expected to take place between victims and offenders, in some cases a veteran may be permitted to proceed through the program even if a victim does not wish to participate. One program goal is to use mediation services as a way to offer access to services, such as drug and alcohol counseling and supervision, that are typically available in a veteran’s court in larger jurisdictions. All mediators and counselors will also be veterans. If a veteran completes the program successfully, the charges will be removed from his or her record. Otherwise, he or she will go through the traditional justice system. This is the first program of its kind for veterans in the state.

Register for International ODR Conference

Registration is open for the 2015 International Online Dispute Resolution Conference, at Pace Law School in Manhattan, from June 3-5. More information about the conference, “Access, Efficiency & Quality: Modern Challenges for the Bench, Bar & Public”, is available at its website.
 

THIS MONTH AT RSI

Welcome to Our Newest Board Member, Marc Becker

By Bridget Crawford, RSI Administrator 

Marc Becker is founder and President of ADR Systems of America, LLC., which provides mediation, arbitration and other dispute services to law firms and businesses. He is responsible for the operation of ADR Systems and is well versed in mediation, arbitration and other ADR processes. 

For more than 20 years, Mr. Becker has been working with and promoting ADR in the Chicago area. He regularly shares his expertise with the legal community and gives presentations introducing ADR to law firms, insurance companies and other organizations throughout the region. Dedicated to spreading ADR, Mr. Becker has developed training programs to teach different types of and uses for ADR. 

Before he founded ADR Systems, Mr. Becker was vice-president of Northern Industries and worked at Galaxy Steel & Tube, where he developed a successful new steel division. Mr. Becker received a BS in Business Administration from Boston University. He currently resides in Chicago with his family. 

Executive Director Works with Many Groups

RSI Executive Director Susan Yates discusses some of the projects she is working on in the ADR field.

As part of my role as RSI’s Executive Director, I get to work on a variety of efforts sponsored by national ADR groups. These tasks come and go, but right now I’m involved in a number of projects. Here’s a quick update.
 
Through AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) I’m working on a project to collect examples of family court ADR programs across the country. The idea is to spark the imaginations of folks working in family court ADR as they work to address the pressing issues facing families and courts. Right now, we are trying to figure out the criteria for inclusion and the format for making the information available.
 
For the past few years, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) has been drafting foreclosure legislation, which includes dispute resolution. Last fall, I was asked by the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section to participate in this drafting process. Since then, I’ve participated in drafting meetings and drawn on the expertise of two of our foreclosure staff – Shawn Davis, RSI’s Director of Foreclosure Mediation, and Kim Ackmann, the program coordinator for our 17th Judicial Circuit foreclosure program -- to review and comment on the dispute resolution portion of the draft. RSI’s suggested changes were endorsed by the ABA DR Section, and I continue to work with the drafting committee.
 
I’m also a member of a ABA Dispute Resolution Section task force on Access to Justice. We are drafting recommendations to the ABA President about how ADR can be used to promote access to justice. RSI conducted a study of this question in 2005, and I will draw on that and more recent resources to contribute to this project.
 
Safety during ADR sessions for parties, neutrals and bystanders has always been a major interest of mine. Last year I served on the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) Taskforce on Safety, which produced "ADR Safety Planning: Recommended Guidance". I am now conducting seminars on safety in ADR, including one sponsored by the court in Chicago and an upcoming webinar sponsored by the ABA.
 
I continue to serve on the Editorial Committee of Conflict Resolution Quarterly, reviewing two to three potential articles per year, and I continue to serve on the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance.
 
Being involved in so many projects offers me the opportunity to gain insight into a wide range of issues in the ADR field, while also allowing me to have a voice in how the field develops.
 

NEW RESEARCH

Study Suggests Family Mediators Should Help Parents Mentalize

by Jennifer Shack, Director of Research 

Jill Howieson and Lynn Pridkis, “A Mentalizing-Based Approach to Family Mediation: Harnessing Our Fundamental Capacity to Resolve Conflict and Building an Evidence-Based Practice for the Field” in Family Court Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, January 2015.

According to a small study in Australia, when family mediators focused the parents on understanding three mental states: their own, each other’s and their children’s, mediation became more constructive and meaningful. Understanding both one’s own mental state, or motivations, and that of others is called mentalizing. To mentalize means to bring together concepts about mental states, including those that one can “see”, such as thoughts and those that one can “feel”, such as emotions. Mentalization is an innate human skill that becomes impaired in times of conflict or stress. The study tested the theory that when mediators encouraged mentalizing the parties would understand their own, the other parents' and their children’s situations better; would be less stressed and more hopeful; and would feel themselves changing their position.
 
For the study, 15 mediations were recorded and parties completed questionnaires after the last session. The study found that when mediators were curious and used open-ended questions and reframing as a way to encourage the parents to mentalize about themselves and their children, the parents could see their children’s and the other parents' needs more clearly. As they talked about their children, they became less rigid and more open to different ways to resolve the dispute. In contrast, when mediators didn’t take a mentalizing stance and instead used interventions such as acting as the expert or suggesting options, the parties shut down and conversation was more entrenched and tense.
 
The authors recommend that mediator training include education in a mentalizing-based approach to family mediation.

Great Info in CourtADR.org Resource Center
We have thousands of listings for articles and other information in our resource center, like this detailed evaluation of the state-wide Connecticut Foreclosure Mediation Program.

RSI Board Of Directors

Hon. Morton Denlow (ret.), President
Terry Moritz, Vice President
Prof. James J. Alfini
Marc Becker
Rajive Chadha
Hon. Allen S. Goldberg (ret.)
Mitchell Marinello
Raven Moore
Hon. Stephen Pacey (ret.)
Hon. Judith Rice
Brian Roche
Hon. Karen G. Shields (ret.)
Hon. James Sullivan (ret.)

RSI Staff

Susan M. Yates, Executive Director 
Kimberly Ackmann
Bridget Crawford

Shawn Davis
Olga Kordonskaya
Kevin Malone
Mary Novak, Editor
Jennifer Shack

SUPPORT RSI


RSI is a non-profit organization that strengthens justice by enhancing court ADR systems through expertise in program development, research and resources. 

NEWS & UPDATES


Foreclosure Mediation Presentation to Township Officials of Kane County

Kevin Malone, RSI's Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator in Kane County, presented a year of data reflecting the success of our program to a meeting of township officials of Kane County. The presentation demonstrated how the program directly impacted the townships' constituents.

New Partnership with John Marshall Law School

RSI's Winnebago/Boone County foreclosure mediation program has recently partnered with John Marshall Law School. We currently have one student, Lacoya Bates, working with our program as part of her foreclosure mediation advocacy skills clinic. Our goal is to increase legal aid resources for homeowners in foreclosure who may need assistance to navigate the foreclosure mediation process, and also to provide a meaningful clinical learning experience for the student.

FROM OUR BLOG


Navigating Your Way Through Conflict — Q&A with Susan Yates

An interview about conflict resolution and the nonprofit field.

Mediation Program Outreach: Reflecting on What Works

A reflection on making mediation programs more accessible, with lessons learned from our three foreclosure mediation programs.

HOW CAN WE HELP?


How Can We Help You? RSI offers a clearinghouse of information on CourtADR.org and also responds to requests for information. Do you have a question about court ADR?
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RSI thanks JAMS and the JAMS Foundation for their support of this publication.

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