Scranton Federal Court Announces New Mediation Center

Our federal court in Scranton, which serves the Poconos, just announced the grand opening of its new mediation center at the William J. Nealon Federal Courthouse.

I was fortunate to get an advance tour of the center and was impressed with what I saw. More importantly, the opening of the center shows the support the court is giving to its mediation program.

I have served on the federal mediation panel for a number of years now and attended a multi-day training program in Harrisburg that the court sponsored to train its mediators. The program has a good track record in getting cases settled. Of course, not every case is suitable for mediation, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that many cases should have been settled long before trial and at lesser expense. Often at much lesser expense. I’ve never understood why parties litigating cases would ever be reluctant to talk with a mediator, in a non-binding meeting, about resolving their case. It can be useful even to hear a third party give input into the strengths and weaknesses and value of a case. Statistically, about 90% of civil cases are settled before trial. Imagine the benefit to the parties and to their attorneys if they could settle their claims at lesser expense, sooner, and without the emotional damage that a long discovery period creates.

Notably, in many of the cases I have mediated and which did not settle on the day of mediation, they were resolved later. Sometimes, creating a “fine wine” takes time and an opportunity for introspection.

Sadly, many courts, perhaps because of insufficient time or because the judges themselves were not litigators, never encourage the parties to submit to a process they might all find beneficial.

The new center has a kitchen, multiple conference rooms for private conversations, and the technology for lawyers to present their positions digitally. I’ll save mediation advocacy for a separate blog entry but I have strong opinions on that as well.

Until then, I appreciate the court’s willingness to give its mediation program the support it deserves.

~Jerry Geiger

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