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Bar News - June 12, 2009


An Update on Discussions at ADR Brown Bag Sessions

By:

OMA Brown Bag Lunch Series

The Office of Mediation and Arbitration is actively seeking input about how the court-annexed mediation program is working for attorneys and their clients, for pro se parties, mediators and the courts.

The NH Family Division has been holding brown bag lunches to help in this evaluation. Remaining dates listed below (12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.).

Contact Lynda Troy or call (603) 271-6418 x303 if you would like to sign up.
Mon., 6/15 Franklin Family
Tues., 6/23  Cheshire Superior
Tues., 6/30 Lancaster Family
 (w/Colebrook)
Weds., 7/1 Hooksett Family
Thurs., 7/23 Portsmouth Family
Tues., 7/28 Ossipee Family
(w/Conway)
Mon., 8/3 Dover Family
Since March 2009, the Office of Mediation and Arbitration has been carrying out an initiative designed to explore how well the mediation program is working in the court-annexed program in Family Division and in the Superior Courts where Family Division has not yet been rolled out.

Through a series of brown bag lunches at each Family Division and in Hillsborough North and South (in May) and in Cheshire Superior Court (in June) the OMA has been facilitating a conversation between mediators, attorneys, court staff and judges about the program. The purpose of the meetings has been to have a candid conversation between those working within the program to determine any problem areas which need correction, and to expand successful program elements.

Although each brown bag meeting has illuminated issues unique to each court, the meetings have revealed some concerns that are universal. Among the issues that have come up most often are:
  • persistent rescheduling of mediations;
  • "no- shows" at mediation sessions;
  • education of parties about the benefits of attorney participation at all levels of the process;
  • ensuring a fair process when there is one pro se party and one represented party;
  • addressing concerns about drafting and the use of court forms;
  • mediator payment and eligibility for payment through the fund for indigent parties;
  • the benefits and concerns of off-site mediation for the initial session;
  • mediation and guardian ad litem assignments in cases;
  • whether GALís should participate in mediation;
  • and flexible scheduling for the first mediation session if both parties have counsel.
The meetings will continue until August of 2009 when all of the courts and participants will have had a chance to attend at least one brown bag session. After the final session the OMA intends to provide a follow-up report to all the participants with an analysis of the feedback of the sessions and recommendations for changes developed through the creative suggestions of the participants.

Although the primary focus at the brown bag lunches has been mediation, the OMA has also been discussing other ADR methods such as neutral case evaluation ("NCE") and arbitration. In the past, neutral case evaluation was used more frequently because in the Superior Court, mediation often didnít occur until much later in the process. After getting feedback from several masters and judges that there was still a place for neutral case evaluation in complex divorces where property division was problematic, the OMA re-launched a neutral case pilot program in the Lebanon and Concord Family Divisions.

The program was re-launched with one important change; masters and judges were added to our roster of evaluators. All of the evaluators are volunteering their time in this initiative and they have all received training specific to neutral case evaluation. There is no cost to participants in this program, and feedback from participants has been excellent.

While the OMA will continue to expand mediation options in 2009-2010, the focus for the OMA this year is to expand the "off-ramps" with an emphasis on arbitration which is available in both the Rule 170 program and in family cases.

The OMA welcomes and invites on-going feedback on all of its initiatives. Please contact Karen J. Borgstrom, Director, Office of Mediation and Arbitration at kborgstrom@courts.state.nh.us or call 603-271-6418, ext 315.

Part II: Arbitration an Important Part of Court-sponsored ADR

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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