January 11, 2006

Mediation training seminar set for this week

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Facilitating agreements between quarreling parties outside of a courtroom is the focus of a three-day training seminar in basic mediation skills this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's law school.

Nineteen law school students and 11 community members, including five ombudsmen from area nursing homes, are participating. The training sessions are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Jan. 12-13, and from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Jan. 14 in the Hiram H. Lesar law building.


Media Advisory

Interviews with participants and coaches are available from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, and after noon, Saturday, Jan. 14. To arrange interviews, contact Lynn M. Malley, the alternative dispute resolution project coordinator and visiting clinical assistant professor, at 618/453-3257 or by email at lmalley@siu.edu.


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) "is a critical part of the legal system," said Lynn M. Malley, the alternative dispute resolution project coordinator and a visiting clinical assistant professor. She noted that less than 5 percent of cases filed actually go to trial. Alternative dispute resolution is used significantly in civil cases, including medical malpractice cases and also within the federal court system.

Examples of issues appropriate for mediation include roommate and neighbor disputes; small claims matters, such as disputes over repairs or unpaid bills; landlord-tenant problems; nursing home complaints; family problems; and consumer complaints.

"Many more cases settle outside the courtroom than inside of it," she said. "ADR is a critical, essential part of our system at this point."

Mediation is much different than going to trial, said Michael P. Ruiz, director of admissions, media and community affairs for the law school.

"In mediation, both parties are allowed to tell their side of the story free from the rules of evidence. In a trial, the rules of evidence may keep certain facts from being heard," he said. "In mediation, both parties work together to come up with a solution to their problem. In a trial, a judge or jury will make the decision."

Law school students participating in the training are second- and third-year students who completed an introductory course on alternative dispute resolution, Malley said. Participants will practice mediating disputes, each time with the assistance of a "mediation coach." A total of 15 faculty and staff members, as well as previous mediation training participants and private mediators, are volunteering their time as coaches.

Malley said a planning grant for a community mediation center, which will be outside of the law school, is under review. She expects to receive word on the grant by the end of the month.

The law school's Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic provides mediation services in small claims and divorce cases in Jackson and Williamson counties, and for disputes involving elderly in the region, including guardianship, health care and consumer issues. Individuals or agencies may call the Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic at 618/453-3257 to inquire about mediation services.

Career preparation and community outreach are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.