Sunday, June 24, 2007

California Court of Appeals Affirms Mediation Confidentiality

The Court of Appeals (Second Circuit) issued it's opinion on the Wimsatt v. Kausch writ of mandate and upheld the mediation confidentiality statutes under California Evidence Code Sec. 1119. This was a proud moment for me, because I supported an amicus curiae brief (as President of the Southern California Mediation Association) and was present for the oral argument. In brief, the Plaintiff's were alleging that their own lawyer had committed malpractice by telling the defense counsel in an underlying airplane crash case that the case that he told his own clients was worth $3.5 million had a value closer to $1.5 million. The case was settled at a second mediation for about $1 million. Now, the Plaintiff's wanted to compel the production of the defense counsel's mediation brief and some e-mail communications between the two lawyers that took place the day before the second session of the mediation. The trial court denied the motion for protective order, out of concern that the protection requested might very well shield the plaintiff's former lawyer from claims for perjury as well as breach of fiduciary duty. The Court of Appeal disagreed. They really understood that the policy favoring settlement through frank conversation in a mediation trumped the possible abuses offered to counsel where evidence was prepared for, or in the course of a mediation. The Court did note that this may be unwise or impracticable, leaving the door open for the Supreme Court to act more critically in the case now before them in Simmons v. Ghaderi. Tough decisions, but certainly nice to read in black and white that the Court of Appeals honors the legislative scheme, even against their most solid judgment, to foster mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism that is meaningful and appreciated.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lessons from Recovery to Mediation

I had an interesting evening this Shabbat at the home of a Prison Rabbi. There, he described the process of "reaching" (with a view towards helping to "uncover" the good self within) of the prison inmates. It occurred to me that in so many instances, a courageous mediator is doing the same "uncovering" process: digging down deep to find the reasons for the behavior that lead to the initial conflict in order to "recover" the relationship or the basis for moving forward in harmony. In looking for an image to depict this thought process, I took a chance and googled "Uncovery"--a term I thought I invented! What I found was a bit of marketing research by Abraham Maslow. I share those here for you: How to Fill Your Customer's Needs

Ever hear of Maslow�s Hierarchy of Needs? If you are trying to uncover the critical information that will motivate potential customers to do business with you, if you are searching for the �meat� in your messaging, you really want to think about what Maslow had to say.

Abraham Maslow didn�t spin out his theories for marketers � he was conceiving an alternative to the more depressing, deterministic psychologies of the day. Maslow presented an optimistic view of human kind: folks are fundamentally focused on growth and love. Violence and other evils appear when basic human needs are not filled. So, for instance, denied a sense of safety, people might engage in violence to defend themselves, but they are not inherently violent.

This seems to me to be germane to both recovery, prison inmates, religion and mediation. In any case, it helps me to consider the pyramid ranging from physiologic needs to self-actualization. From "uncovery" to "recovery".

Saturday, June 9, 2007

On Secrets and Blogging

Well, it finally happened. My blog was picked up by google, which was searching for someone (name now confidential!) and lead her to one of my "musings" which apparently revealed far too much of a confidential mediation. Luckily, blogging also carries a "delete" feature--so that entry is now forever zapped away in the stroke of a key. And yet...

Mediation is a solitary, secret society. We hold confidences. We try new and innovative ways to resolve conflict, knowing if it fails (or if it succeeds) it will never be revealed. Even the negotiation is confidential, so that lawyers are not supposed to tell other lawyers what they tried and how it worked in a particular fact pattern. And yet...

But the internet is a different sort of creation. It is mass media writ larger than life! And so it strikes me that the wise mediator may have to keep mum from musing via this blogging tool. And yet...

Perhaps a brief hiatus and re-consideration/reconfiguration might be warranted in this instance. While I'm tempted to reveal my innermost musings in this fashion, perhaps it's ill-advised. And yet...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Making A Life while Earning A Living

This week's Musings involve Congratulations. My daughter, Rachel, graduated from California State University this week and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Special Education. There is a great triumph in graduating a child from College. Hooray for Rachel! My son, Jordan will graduate from Oakwood School (High School) on June 14, 2007. We are very proud of both of them (and our middle son, still in College at University of Wisconsin). So this week, I did some introspection not so much on the practice of mediation, but on the life it offers. The move from practicing litigation to practicing mediation is positively liberating. Although many of my days are long, I don't bear the burden of responsibility for the fate of my clients as I did in law. I don't answer to a Senior Partner, or advocate for positions which I don't believe in because I've been hired to do so. I rarely incur the wrath of an opposing party and am almost never treated with disrespect or disdain. It has taken me several years to get there, but finally I am earning what I earned as a lawyer, but making a life that is oh, so much more satisfying to my soul. And the best part is that I was able to actively participate in watching my children grow up to be such capable, caring, decent adults. That is a life worth living.