MEDIATION

Mediation available in all of Southern California, the Inland Empire, Riverside and San Bernardino California Counties

Legal disputes of all kinds can be stressful and complex. The C.A.M.S. team of Dispute Resolution Professionals are experienced in many areas of law, including those which can be very complex and complicated such as Professional Negligence (i.e., Medical, Legal and other Professional Malpractice).  Personal Injury matters from soft tissue, low impact auto cases, slip/trip and fall and other relatively minor matters all the way to life changing, catastrophic injuries.  Lawyers and parties who have experience with our legal system realize not every battle needs to be fought out in court. In most cases, it may be possible to arrive at solutions amicably, even when dealing with the most seemingly complicated and heated matters. Though our headquarters are located in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, California Arbitration & Mediation Services offers mediation services for individuals and companies throughout Southern California and the Inland Empire, focusing particularly within the jurisdictions of the San Bernardino and Riverside Courts.  The goal of C.A.M.S.’ panel of dispute resolution professionals is to help you move forward from any pending or existing dispute you may be facing.

Specialized Agricultural Mediation Services

California Arbitration & Mediation Services panelists are also involved in a U.S.D.A. Mediation Program, offering specialized services. The California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) provides free mediation services to the California agricultural community. Mediation topics can include, but are not limited to: farm loans; credit issues; federal farm and conservation programs (such as EQIP); wetlands determinations; grazing permits on national forest system lands; Rural Development loans; and other agricultural issues. CALAMP is certified by the United States Department of Agriculture as one of 40 state agricultural mediation programs in the U.S., and our program also receives support from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. These programs have a proven record of helping members of the agricultural community resolve challenging problems.

WHAT IS MEDIATION?

By Donald B. Cripe, Senior Mediator

Mediation is a form of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). ADR is a general term for methods of resolving a dispute (whether family, civil or otherwise) without going through the formal court process but providing an opportunity for a complete resolution. ADR can save time and money and can increase overall satisfaction with the outcome of disputes.  Briefly, Mediation is a “facilitated negotiation” wherein a mediator moderates and facilitates, from an informed perspective, the negotiation of the parties.

ADR can be used at any point in a case to resolve sub-issues.  In Civil cases resolvable issues include, but are not limited to, contracts, business, personal injury, etc.  In Family Law (Divorce) cases, resolution of issues such as including property division, child support, spousal support (alimony), paternity, child custody, parenting plans, and many other issues can be obtained quickly and relatively inexpensively.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of cases filed in court (95-98%) do not go to trial. Most cases are settled or decided in some other way. But in too many cases, settlement comes only after considerable resources have been expanded. This is why ADR is strongly recommended and, in some courts, is a court policy. Even though the parties are responsible for the fees for the mediator or arbitrator, usually what the parties save in the costs of litigation will more than compensate for the costs of the arbitrator or mediator. Instead of waiting six months, a year, or more for a trial, cases can be resolved through ADR–many times within weeks of arranging and at a fraction of the cost of taking a matter to trial.

Mediation is a strictly voluntary, confidential means by which parties to a dispute of any kind can resolve their case far more quickly, efficiently and less expensively than pursuing a judgment through the ordinary course of litigation.

The parties may resolve a single issue or their entire case. The agreements reached through mediation are not limited by the remedies available under the law so mediated solutions can more easily accommodate the circumstances of individual cases. When mediating a case, the parties retain control of their case. In trial, however, the judge and the law control. An agreement reached in mediation can be binding is an enforceable contract which can be summarily binding in litigated cases. The mediated agreement may become an order signed by the court and, if violated may be converted into a judgment without a trial.

The difference between having a matter decided at a hearing by a judge as opposed to mediation is as day and night. A trial focuses upon what has happened in the past while mediation looks to a resolution for the future.  In a hearing the court is limited by the law and the parties have little to say about how the decision is created. In mediation there are few limits or boundaries to the remedies available and neither party can be forced to accept a resolution. Participating in mediation does not impact the party’s right to a court hearing if it is desired. If an agreement is not reached through mediation the parties have a right continue through the court system. However, a skilled, experienced mediator can bring most issues to a final resolution.

WHAT IS A MEDIATOR?

A mediator can be almost anyone the parties agree upon to act as a neutral to assist the parties with resolution of their case. Preferably, your mediator is will be formally trained and, ideally, somewhat familiar with the law involved in your matter. C.A.M.S. panelists are all veteran trial attorneys who have undergone formal mediation training and annual judicial training.

A mediator is not a judge while mediating. The mediator cannot make orders. The mediator is neutral and while the mediator may provide simple explanations of specific legal elements or regarding forms or format the mediator may not offer legal advice to either party.

A mediator should be engaged jointly by the parties. Mediators who are professionals in the field agree to practice according to very strict ethical guidelines similar to those to which lawyers and judges are held. Before the mediation begins the mediator may meet with the parties individually.  There are no prohibitions against “ex parte” communication as there is with a Judge or Arbitrator.  This situation is entirely up to the style of the mediator.  The mediator may have an individual known as a “convening agent,” “convener,” some are referred to as a “case manager,” meet with the individual parties to arrange for the mediation and to have an agreement to mediate, etc., signed by the parties.  Some Mediators consider discussions on the elements or facts with an individual before the case is convened to be improper.  But others like to get a feel from the parties before the mediation is convened.  Therefore, parties seeking the services of a professional mediator should discuss this issue with the mediator before she is engaged.

A mediator is a professional whose business it is to mediate cases.  Fees will be charged by a mediator. Usually the fees charged by the mediator will be offset by the savings in court costs and other costs of litigation such as attorney’s fees, all of which grow as a litigated case continues unresolved. The faster a case can be resolved the less it will cost. A professional mediator familiar with the courts and the law at issue in a case can assist the parties through the maze of procedures and documents required by the courts.

Most of the time mediation conducted by and experienced mediator will result in a judicially enforceable agreement or judgment.

MORE DETAILS ABOUT MEDIATION:

The process of mediation is held in high regard by the legal system in California.  The mediation process is strictly confidential and is governed by specific and special rules of evidence and conduct. Before the mediation commences, the parties will probably be asked to sign a “confidentiality agreement” stating that they understand the process and that the facts and any “evidence” that may be revealed during the process of mediation, is inadmissible at trial or subsequent hearing if the case does not settle—Unless such information or evidence is otherwise admissible.  The mediator’s role is highly protected.  The law provides the same immunities for mediators as it does judges.  The mediator cannot be called as a witness, asked or compelled neither to prepare a report regarding the mediation nor to report to anyone anything about the mediation except other than to state that mediation took place and whether the mediation resulted in an agreement.  Usually, the only admissible item from a mediation is the written settlement agreement.

Depending upon the case (particularly civil vs. family law), demeanor of the parties and the personal style of the mediator, during the mediation session(s) the mediator will most likely meet with the parties separately for some or all of the process. This is to allow the mediator to assist all parties in coming to a resolution. It also helps the parties express themselves more freely to the mediator. Generally, whatever is shared with the mediator during these private sessions can be shared with the opposition unless the mediator is asked to keep it confidential. Most mediators do not communicate settlement terms suggested to them by a party unless given the authority to do so by the party making the suggestion. Sometimes the process of the mediator seems unusual to the parties but a mediator trained in the process and has experience with mediation, conducts the mediation in a manner he or she has determined will work best with the individuals. There are several mediation styles and philosophies. Most trained mediators will quickly determine which style and philosophy will work best in a situation.

The mediator will probably encourage the parties to think “outside the box” to settle difficult issues. There are several ways to resolve difficult problems if the parties want to settle. One of the benefits of mediation is that most of the time the parties would not select mediation if they were not eager to settle. However, many times parties to a dispute do not discuss their case, so a mediator’s involvement often enlightens the parties to settlement possibilities that may not have occurred to them.

Mediation is most effective because it allows the parties to communicate and solve problems without fear or intimidation.

THE BENEFIT OF ADR

California Courts are in a terrible financial situation. Our courts are desperately overcrowded with Riverside and San Bernardino counties having the highest caseloads per judge in the entire state. Though this does not seem to be something that a litigant should be concerned about, the litigant ultimately pays the price. Court fees are being increased rate that is unprecedented. Delays in getting civil and family cases to trial can sometimes be long. Even for parties who have little money, the litigation process in the courts can still be very expensive.  Because of the crowded court calendars, matters are routinely postponed or continued which may require the parties to take more time off of work.  ADR gives the parties the exclusive attention of the arbitrator or mediator who has scheduled a time specially to handle a case. The delays are fewer and almost no matter what the mediator or arbitrator may charge, the expense is typically far less than taking a case through trial. Parties can complete their cases in a fraction of the time and cost it will take to navigate the court system.

At Your Service

At California Arbitration & Mediation Services, our goal is to help people put conflict behind them and reach mutually agreeable resolutions. Our mediation services are designed to save you more than just money. By working quickly and efficiently toward solutions, we may help you save yourself wasted time and undue amounts of stress. And when you work with us, you’ll benefit from our:

  • Thoughtful, patient approach
  • Easy appointment scheduling
  • Reasonable rates

You deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your days of conflict are behind you. Call us today for more information about our mediation services.

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