Curry County part of mediation pilot program

By Kevin Baird
CNJ staff writer

Curry County Magistrate Court will be part of a pilot program that will use volunteers for pre-trial mediation in civil cases.

“In a nutshell, mediation helps the parties vent and organize,” said David Levin, co-chairman of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission in New Mexico, “and this experience makes for better trials.”

The mediation program is for parties involved in civil action, with a debt or sum not exceeding $10,000.

According to Levin:

• Mediation can save the public money by reducing the amount of time that justice system staff are needed.

• Parties involved in civil suits have a tendency to vent in court and to say, “I am right and the other party is wrong.” The venting process can be emotional and it can cloud judgment. “Mediation parties commonly report that a benefit of mediation is that they got to tell their story. Once a person feels heard and acknowledged, often that party is less likely to vent in court.” Parties and judges report trials go better after mediation.

• “People who settle in mediation are often more satisfied because they have more control over the agreement. It’s the difference between doing something because you have to and doing something that you want to.”

• Self-represented parties are often disorganized and their presentations in court can ramble and be hard to follow. “ In mediation, the parties are guided in focusing on the issues in dispute and the options for resolution. Parties and judges report that the organizational experience of mediation helps parties be clearer and more articulate.” This can also help the judge make a better decision.

Mediators will be trained in effective and safe communication techniques, the guiding process, identifying common interests between parties and helping parties discover mutually acceptable solutions, according to a commission press release.

Levin said he and Susan Barnes-Anderson, who is the director of the mediation program at the metropolitan court in Albuquerque, will be teaching the course.

There is no fee for this training, but participants will be required to mediate 25 cases, each mediation being about two hours.

Curry Magistrate Judge Duane Castleberry said, “Students who love mediation can receive more training and more certifications.”

Levin said the commission wants to develop mediation programs throughout the state.

Fast facts

What: Mediator Basic Training

Where: Eastern New Mexico University Campus

When: Aug. 23-25 and Sept. 6-8, Fridays 1:30-6:30 p.m., Saturdays 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and Sundays 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Application Deadline: Aug. 1

Contact: Curry Magistrate Court, 762-3766