Today, I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new mediation center at the federal courthouse in Scranton. The guest list included all of the Middle District judges and the panel of certified mediators. It’s really a beautiful facility and will include video conferencing capability.

Chief Judge Conner and mediation coordinator, Joe Barrett, spoke briefly about the program and cut the ribbon for the new center.

Judge Conner thanked the mediation panel attorneys for the pro bono services we provide. Under local rules, all mediators agree to provide the first six hours of a mediation pro bono and most don’t charge when mediation sessions extend past six hours. I never have.

I especially appreciated Joe Barrett’s comments noting that our courts are in the business of helping people solve problems they are unable to solve themselves. We often lose sight of that in the heat of litigation conflict. A mediator is in a unique position to help the parties understand the big picture. I’ve had too many people tell me it’s about the “principle” of the matter until they realize that their principles might cause them thousands of dollars and heartache.

The program has been a great success. Judge Conner mentioned that when the parties voluntarily attend mediation, two-thirds of the cases settled. When the parties are forced into mandatory mediation, half the cases settle. That’s a great track record.

The new mediation suite is more than a comfortable place to settle cases. It demonstrates that the court understands that the public is best served when the courtroom is the last resort.

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