Sunday, April 15

What the heck is this?

Does this mean someone was actually sent to jail for not attending a Florida mediation?

I guess the words....

"I found Defendant Joseph Francis to be in civil contempt because of his willful failure to participate in mediation as required by the Scheduling and Mediation Order... Defendant Francis is ordered to surrender to the custody of the United States Marshal at the United States Courthouse in Panama City, Florida, not later than 12:00 p.m.,CDT, on Thursday, April 5, 2007"

...can only mean one thing.

Perry S.Itkin of Florida Mediator Blog please explain!

Thanks to Michelle Obradovic


Laura L. Noah said...

Wow! I have to say I'm a bit stunned. I've heard judges threaten to send clients to jail for not attending mediation, a consequence that might be understandable in the context of a court order. After all, if everyone ignored court orders (as many already do) with little or no consequences, than orders would have no weight. What this judge did, however, seems extreme and far-reaching.

The judge's threat to coercively incarcerate the defendant at first appeared to be about the defendant's "failure to participate [in mediation]," but it didn't end there. What is disconcerting is how the judge then imposed that the client "participate in meaningful negotiations" apparently with "meaningful" as defined by the mediator. That is, it appears that the mediator made a determination or judgment as to whether the defendant was participating appropriately based on the offer or offers he made to the plaintiff and then the mediator reported back to the judge accordingly.

The judge further took issue with the defendant "imposing unacceptable conditions" in mediation. Again, by whose determination were the defendant's conditions unacceptable (by conditions I'm assuming he means proposals)? The mediator's? The judge's?

What happened to the mediation process being voluntary, confidential, neutral, and self-determined? How can this be called mediation?

I don't know what offers were on the table or to what extent the defendant was or was not willing to participate in mediation, but the order does make clear that the defendant ultimately PARTCIPATED (i.e. showed up for the appointment) in mediation, lack of participation being the initial reason for the contempt charge. When I mediated for a court-mandated mediation program the judges and mediators always assured the clients that they HAD to participate in the mediation process (court ordered) but that they would NOT be required to reach agreement. This case is saying something altogether different. In my opinion, this has some scary implications for the field of mediation.


Geoff Sharp said...

Right on Laura! Great comment. Its something from another would be good to get a local mediator's take on it.