While court proceedings are inherently an “us-against-them” scenario, there are other avenues to arrive at an amicable resolution. This is called mediation and in California, some 95 percent of civil cases will never even be heard in a court room. A mediator is someone who can hear out both plaintiff and defendant – much like a judge and jury would – but help the parties arrive at a solution that both agree to. Judge Diane Ritchie had worked as a mediator for the past 14 years and continues to undergo week-long training sessions as to keep her impartial court room skills sharp. In this article, we’ll explore some of the finer aspects of mediation and explain who should consider this route over a risky and expensive jury trial.
Do you apply? Complex criminal cases need not apply. According to FindLaw.com, “disputes in commercial transactions, personal injury, construction, workers compensation, labor or community relations, divorce, domestic relations” and/or employment could be resolved via mediation. Without trying to sound blasé, we hope readers would understand why homicide or manslaughter cases could never be resolved by a mediator.
Why choose mediation? It takes time and money to get a case to trial. The discovery period can stretch for months and lawyers can bill hundreds of dollars per hour when arguing before a judge. These are unavoidable aspects of pressing charges or defending yourself – unless of course you opt for a mediator. There’s also a bit of risk involved in going to trial because the ruling might not be in your favor; that means you’ve wasted a lot of effort and could now face life-changing consequences. If both sides agree to let a mediator hear the issue out, a resolution will be slowly and steadily built. Both sides must agree to the measures proposed since this, after all, is a way of avoiding a lopsided ruling by a judge.
What makes a good mediator? It takes time to learn about the nuances of court — that’s why law firms “practice” law. Judge Diane Ritchie ran her own private practice, was a Deputy District Attorney with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and was a Superior Court judge in Santa Clara County, California. What’s more, Judge Diane Ritchie has never seen any of her rulings overturned by an appeal from the defendant. When choosing a mediator, readers are encouraged to ask about continued training. Judge Diane Ritchie, for example, has logged 120 hours of additional training with professionals in this field. This can help lead to a more favorable settlement that pleases both parties and spares them from a drawn-out fight in the typical court room setting.