Saturday, March 22, 2008

Marin County Superior Courts embrace Mediation

Mediation a key part of Marin courts
Staff Report
Article Launched: 03/21/2008 12:07:30 AM PDT

Verna Adams and Kim Turner

MEDIATION IS A form of alternative dispute resolution that aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement, according to Wikipedia. The conditions of that agreement is what the parties determine, rather than accepting terms imposed by a judge or other third party.

In Marin, our court offers many opportunities for mediation as an alternative to litigation. Assisted by volunteer attorneys, mental health professionals, accountants and others, people with disputes are brought together and solutions found. Disputes that can be mediated may involve just about anyone. Government agencies, businesses, local groups and individuals often elect to use mediation, rather than the more adversarial approaches in traditional court hearings.

In our court system, all civil, probate and family law disputes can be mediated. Such matters include child custody and visitation, neighborhood conflicts (everything from property lines to barking dogs), inheritance issues, landlord-tenant disagreements and more. We are proud to report that mediation in Marin is a stunning success.

In 2007, our Family Court Services division offered mediation to families with custody and visitation issues in 544 cases. Many were settled at that point, without ever going before a judicial officer. For cases that did not settle, the court offered further custody and visitation mediation, staffed by a judicial officer and volunteer mediators and mental health professionals.
Ninety-eight percent of those cases settled.

Mediation long has been part of our civil court system in Marin. Because of its success, recently we expanded these services to probate proceedings so parties involved in litigation relating to probate or will contests can work toward solutions that are beneficial to all. These mediation conferences are conducted by a judicial officer and two volunteer, experienced probate attorneys.

Mediation is also part of the juvenile criminal justice system. For nonviolent offenders, volunteers help bring the victim and the offender together so that restitution can be made and the young offender rehabilitated. This approach, called restorative justice, offers a proven strategy to redirect the behavior of youthful offenders who often do not consider that their crimes cause harm to real victims. It may be our best opportunity to dissuade juvenile offenders from engaging in more serious criminal activities.

These programs would not be possible without the generous participation of hundreds of volunteers. At the Marin County Bar Association meeting on Wednesday, we will recognize 146 attorneys who have volunteered their services to those who cannot afford representation during the past year. The court has a panel of 358 attorneys who serve on our mediation panels.
As a result of this work, few civil, probate or family law cases go to trial. Instead, the parties find a mutually agreeable compromise in a process that is cheaper, quicker and much less stressful than litigation.

In addition to the mediation work that takes place inside the courthouse, other agencies provide mediation services:

- Marin Mediation Services, 30 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael (499-7454).
- Marin County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, 30 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael (499-1314).
- Marin District Attorney's Office, Consumer Protection Unit (499-6450).
- Legal Self-Help Center of Marin, 30 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael (492-1111).
- Department of Consumer Affairs, (916-574-822).
A Texas Law Review article, "A glass half full," may have said it best. Mediation is "better (than litigation) ... more accessible and understandable to the layperson, less adversarial, expensive and time-consuming, and more likely to produce an outcome that matches the interests of the disputants."
The Judicial Council of California has declared March 17 to 24 to be Mediation Week. Join us in saluting the hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly and effectively to assist the people of Marin with all their problems, large and small.
Verna Adams is presiding judge and Kim Turner is executive officer of Marin County Superior Court.

Jim W Hildreth
Mediating Real Estate Disputes

The Love of Real Estate

We love our homes, our investments as each of us have dreams.
Sometimes a dispute will occur, such as a partnership dispute, non-disclosure issues, a buyer-seller conflict or issues with agents.
Jim W Hildreth is a trained & experienced Real Estate Mediator
that can assist and guide the parties in resolving a conflict or dispute.
Why Litigate, when you can Mediate.
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley & The Mother Lode.
Jim W Hildreth

Real Estate Dispute?

Are you involved in a Real Estate Dispute? Looking for a trained "Neutral"?

Jim W Hildreth is a certified Mediator who's specialty is conflicts and disputes with real property issues.
Serving the Bay Area, the Central Valley and the California Mother Lode.
Experienced and dedicated at resolving conflicts and treating each party with respect, dignity with open lines of communication.
Jim W Hildreth

Mediation Best For Real Estate Disputes

Mediation best for real estate disputes
Robert Bruss
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Q: In September, we bought an older house, which had recently been remodeled. It has a flat roof. Our professional home inspector said the roof appeared to have been repaired recently.
During a moderate rain about a month after we moved in, it leaked in several spots. When we called the realty agent and the seller, they both said the roof didn't leak when the house was sold to us so they have no liability. We talked with two roofers who agreed the roof is shot and needs complete replacement. One roofer bid $12,500 and the other bid $14,850.
When we talked to our attorney, she reviewed our sales contract, which says we agreed to mediate any dispute that arises with the seller, but if that doesn't work we have to go to binding arbitration. When we signed our purchase offer, the Realtor pushed us to agree to arbitrate any disputes. Is that good or bad?
Vickie R.
A: Mediation of real estate sales disputes is fine, and I highly recommend it as a way to resolve buyer-seller disputes at very low expense.
When your attorney notifies the seller that you feel the house was misrepresented because the roof leaked badly in the first moderate rain after purchase, she will remind the seller of the contract obligation to mediate disputes.
The parties, with the help of their attorneys, will then choose a neutral mediator who has real estate experience. In a simple matter like this, mediation shouldn't take more than one day. Each party presents its evidence, such as your estimates. The parties usually split the fee of the mediator. If he or she is really good, the result will usually be a compromise of some type.
However, if mediation fails, because both buyer and seller agreed to binding arbitration for any sales disputes, you and the seller will choose an arbitrator who will hear the evidence and render a binding decision. That decision is then presented to the local court for confirmation so it becomes the equivalent of a judgment.
The big drawback of binding arbitration is there is no appeal, even if the arbitrator made a mistake.
When I buy or sell real estate, I never agree in the sales contract to binding arbitration of future disputes. My philosophy is that's not the time to give up my legal rights to a jury trial if a dispute arises.

Jim W Hildreth