Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Western Justice Center Foundations' Peer Mediation Invitational

Euphoria! Optimism! New Found Hope in our Future! Awe! These were some of the deep emotions I felt experiencing the Western Center for Justice Foundation's Peer Mediation Invitational yesterday. There, they gathered 60 Elementary School aged Peer Mediators for an observed Mediation "role play". One of the children I had the privilege to observe, Jasmine, had been a Peer Mediator for three years: and she was only in the 5th grade! The kids got to "agreement" and got to the "underlying issues" with such ease and innocence. It was truly remarkable. I was also privileged to Co-Coach with Justice Barry Russell, who is the presiding Judge in the US Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles. Justice Russell understands the value of mediation, and of "teaching our children". He is a Board member of the WCJF and took the day off to observe. I reminded him that he taught me bankruptcy at Loyola Law School way back in 1979. That was my last foray into bankruptcy, thankfully, but it was rewarding to find that he had come to the same place as I had--if only for the day. Justice Dorothy Nelson, of the U.S. Court of Appeal was equally charming and inspiring to the children (and their coaches!). I was struck by the openness of these kids to the notion that they can choose their own paths as adults. Some will choose the military, some will choose to be "Peacemakers" and others will aspire to be Judges, or athletes or artists. Their generation may indeed make a difference to ours. AMEN. Before the day was over, we danced with a multicultural band, Najeeba Sayeed-Miller, the Center's Director with her baby on her hip, dancing the very non-traditional Indian style...with many non-traditional followers! Great rewarding work. Thrilled to have the opportunity!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Participation in The Face of the OC Mediator a Great Experience

I was pleased and intrigued by the opportunity to participate in "The Face of the OC Mediator" conference on March 23, 2007. I addressed no less than about 30 eager men and women on the subject of "Gender and Negotiation: How it Affects both Process and Outcome". It was a great experience for me because it was such a great group of energetic and excited participants: eager to learn and practice, meet and mingle. I have high hopes that this seed has been planted and that with the sunshine and spirit of Orange County, the movement will continue to grow. The talk by Reverend Bill on multi-cultural mediation at the lunch break was nothing short of inspired. I hope that we can continue the dialogue and perhaps engage Father Bill in a Salon on the topic of "public mediation" and what we as individual independent mediators can do to help our community get along as it struggles through changes in makeup and identity. Kudos to my friends, Therese Gray and Debra Rocha for putting together such an awesome conference and standing behind this emergin movement in OC!

Los Angeles City Counsel Declares March 24, 2007 Mediation Day

What a thrill to be included in the Third Year of Mediation Recognition before the Los Angeles City Counsel. Counselwoman Wendy Greuel is enlightened enough to sponsor this Declaration, and Daniel Ben Zvi, our Chairperson, is gracious enough to allow SCMA to be represented through its leadership and alliances. This year, I appeared, together with Past President, Max Factor, III on behalf of SCMA, with Avis-Ridley Thomas, who runs the City of L.A.'s Mediation Program and The President-elect of the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Randall Dean, and Scott Carr, Board Member of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.

The most gratifying part for me was an interruption in the presentation by Councilman, Bill Rosendahl. Last year at this time, I was working towards convening a mediation on a heated housing issue in Councilman Rosendahl's district. Ultimately, the matter was mediated by Peter Robinson, Director of the Straus Institute. The battle was lost and the matter proceeded to trial...but the war may have been won nevertheless. Congressman Rosendahl spoke eloquently about how well the process works and how he experienced the value of the communication. Voila! That was all the recognition I needed...but the certificate is itself a thing of beauty and will be framed and hang proudly in SCMA's new Offices.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Challenge of Mediating Gang Violence

Here's the Challenge of the Week: I've been invited to participate with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission to attempt to mediate the on-going, decades old gang violence which plagues our City. Apparently, there are about 50 civic leaders who have been meeting weekly for over a year, and are making little headway. A native of Los Angeles, I attended High School in the early 1970's in Inglewood. It was the beginnings of gang-affiliation, and even race riots. By the time I graduated, we found ourselves more divided and segregated than before the busing began: a failed experiment of forced integration. Unfortunately, these young gang members are now second generation: the children of my contemporaries. And unfortunately, most every family knows someone who has personally experienced violence or death in the name of solidarity amongst the members of a gang. I read an interesting folk wisdom story today that said: "A gun is not an arrow." What was meant by this is that an arrow is a good warning: "don't behave that way, because it can sting or wound". A gun, on the other hand, is usually fatal: no opportunity to change behavior, no warning. Perhaps, with a lot of help from spiritual sources, I can play a role in driving home that lesson. As they say, "you've got to hope for a fist-fight" in these situations. If we can get them to de-escalate, and approach conflict in a less drastic way, perhaps we can get a chance to sit them at a table to discuss their decades old misunderstanding. It's a challenge, but I'm thrilled by the opportunity!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Promise of Restorative Justice

I had an amazing experience last week at a Salon sponsored by the Southern California Mediation Association. We screened Rachel Libbert's excellent documentary "Beyond Conviction". There, she told the story of three victims and the perpetrators who had each been convicted of a violent crime against them, confronting one another. The power of the admissions and the inquisitions and the acceptance and healing was palpable. For me, the experience was only enhanced by the fact that I had invited a friend, Rabbi Yossi Carron to the screening. Yossi works as a Prison Chaplain in the L.A. Men's Central Jail. As he left, he whispered to me: "This is incredible. I want to screen this film at the Prison, to show it to "my guys", and let them see the power of apologizing and the promise of forgiveness and healing. And I want you to come (on behalf of SCMA) to explain how mediation works."

As a civil, commercial mediator, I don't have that sense of transformative mediation too often. Here, although I'm not sure I have the courage to facilitate this type of mediation, I felt for the first time that I had the power to change lives and even the penal system in California in a small way with enormous potential consequence.

I have not felt quite so excited by the power and promise of mediation since the day I finished "The Moral Imagination", by John Lederach. Rachel Libbert is to be congratulated. What an awesome undertaking.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

New and Improved Century City Hearing Space

I'm pleased to announce that as of March 5, 2007, I will have Office Space for Mediations in both Century City and Encino. Stop by to see my pretty new offices at: 1901 Avenue of the Stars. I'm on the Second Floor: Phone: 310-201-0990.