General Mills Inc., maker of Cheerios and other grocery staples, has reversed a recent change to its online legal policy after an outcry by consumers. The policy had been quietly updated last week to include terms under which any dispute with the company would have to be decided through arbitration, a change first reported by the New York Times last week. Critics and legal experts said the new terms could cost consumers their right to sue in court if they merely "liked" General Mills' social media pages, downloaded coupons from its website or entered any company-sponsored contests. General Mills initially criticized the media reports on the policy, saying they had mischaracterized it. The company also defended arbitration as "a straightforward and efficient way to resolve such disputes — and many companies take the same approach. We even cover the cost of arbitration in most cases." But the coverage set off consumer outcry on social media, eventually leading to the abrupt reversal Saturday.
Relationship breakdown is seldom easy for those involved. In some instances, emotions are so raw that the fracture can lead to an irreconcilable breakdown in communication. The desire to demonstrate who was right and who was wrong compels individuals to air their differences in court. However, that does not just mean turning up at court and asking the judge for a decision. It can mean a lot of preparation, investigation, time and expense and can have lasting consequences for the couple concerned and those close to them, especially their children. Thankfully, conflict is not a common element of every divorce, even if divorce itself is far too frequent for the liking of many commentators. According to figures released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), some 42 per cent of marriages now end in divorce.
Each summer a cohort of students spends intensive hours developing and sharpening skills that numerous employers are seeking in today's ideal employment candidate. Many conflict resolution skills, such as effective listening and communicating, problem solving, impartiality, and decision-making are core components of effective leadership which are sought by employers.
New combined Family Courts have come into being in England and Wales as part of family justice system reforms. The plan also includes new time frames for cases where children are taken into care and compulsory mediation awareness sessions for separating couples. Justice Minister Simon Hughes said it was "a hugely important change" to what had been a "very dysfunctional system". But the chief executive of the Family Rights Group charity said some of the changes could "work against children".
The Village Mediation Program was erected in the 1980s to give residents a tool to address such situations. Since then, a group of 12–15 trained volunteer mediators from the community have made themselves available to bring interested parties together to talk out their differences. This year the mediator group is looking for new volunteers to help manage the average case load of one to two mediations per month, and they have organized a free two-day training program for anyone interested in either becoming a volunteer mediator or gaining skills in conflict resolution.
Mediation can make divorce "more respectful" and help the splitting couple from arguing unnecessarily, according to one mother. Natasha Brittan told Daybreak sitting down with her estranged husband and an impartial referee with legal knowledge had helped them have an amicable divorce. "It just made everything more respectful, kinder and we did not want, or certainly I did not want my divorce to define the rest of my life.
No one shouts in this people’s court. There are no tears. Tension can run high, but volunteers with the Quad-Cities Mediation Services work with plaintiffs and defendants in Scott County District Small Claims Court to move toward solutions. Just over half of the 600 or so small claims lawsuits filed each year are resolved in the tiniest of meeting rooms on the courthouse’s third floor. The service handles the mediation district court magistrates require before hearing any small claims case. Volunteers bring the litigants together for a guided process that bypasses the drama of the courtroom reality shows. “We’re not here to belittle you,” Magistrate Doug Wells said of small claims court. “We’re here to make a decision in your case.” Volunteer mediators describe a unique community service that is challenging, but very rewarding. They commit to one or two days a month that begin at noon and wrap up within an hour or two. “You see actual results for real people,” Mediation Services Director Linda Schneider said. “Sometimes you can feel the burden being lifted off these people.”
Criminal mediation isn’t common, but some critics say it traumatizes victims and infringes on their constitutional rights. When a felony case is mediated, the defendant, prosecutor and defense attorney meet with a mediating judge, hoping to avoid a trial. They hash out all issues, including reduced charges, continuing relationships with the victim, sentencing, restitution and admissibility of evidence. The defendant and defense attorney are in one room, the prosecutor in another. The mediating judge travels between them, and the proceedings are neither recorded nor reported. Such confidentiality encourages both parties to be open and avoids violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights, said Linda Trout, a retired Idaho Supreme Court justice who serves as a criminal mediator and sits on the Criminal Mediation Committee overseeing the process. But Betsy Z. Russell, president of the Idaho Press Club, expressed concerns.
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Changing Minds: The Work of Mediators and Empirical Studies of Persuasion (4/22/14) Douglas Frenkel, James Stark The use of mediation has grown exponentially in recent years, yet the field of mediation still operates to a considerable extent on folklore and opinion, rather than reliable knowledge. Mediator attempts at persuasion are pervasive in some mediation contexts, while "persuasion" is, for some, a pejorative word and a contested norm in the field. Perhaps as a result, there has been little, if any, evidence-based writing about what kinds of persuasive appeals might be effective in mediation. In an effort to begin to fill that void, this article examines empirical research on persuasion from such diverse fields as advertising, public health, communications, politics and race relations. The article then raises questions about how these social science findings might apply to the work of mediators.
Fairness v. Neutrality (4/18/14) Ricardo Padilla Is it really possible to be completely neutral in a mediator’s role? Are there any circumstantial conditions, objective or subjective, for justifying a mediator’s intervention as to modify the evident or foreseen outcome in a more satisfactory way for an unpowered or oppressed party? The purpose of this paper is to analyze and reflect on ethical and moral questions involved in the mediation process, and the way they can be addressed by mediation professionals. The scope will go from basic definitions of ethics and morality to critically asking questions for fostering mediators to face this dilemma and make a personal decision in favor of a “laissez-fair, laissez-passer” stance or an “activist” one. In this paper, I am clearly advocating for the second one.
Video-based mediation – it’s starting to happen. What do we need to know? (4/16/14) Noam Ebner I recently had the pleasure of writing a paper with my student-turned-teacher, Jeff Thompson (an alumnus of our Negotiation and Dispute Resolution program at Creighton and the Wizard Behind the Curtain at ADRHub). Jeff works on non-verbal communication in mediation, and is also in involved in ODR. Putting those together with my own interest in the role of trust in ODR, we mapped out some issues at the juxtaposition of trust, non-verbal communication and online, video-based, mediation. You can read this article, soon to appear in the International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution, here. 1 Comment
5 Steps for Strengthening Your Marriage (4/14/14) Mary Aderibigbe You can make your marriage strong but you’ve got to acknowledge that disagreements are inevitable. Preventing conflict begins identifying what are common conflict points in your marriage. Preventing conflicts also means strengthening your marriage to withstand outside conflicts. This is a faith-based article discussing Biblical viewpoints for strengthening marriage.
The Use of Student Organizations as a Means of Conflict Resolution Education (4/14/14) Judy Rashid Student organizations offer many opportunities for students, including the chance to develop meaningful relationships, to pursue special interests, to clarify a sense of purpose and identity, and to develop interpersonal, leadership, organization, and social skills. Peaceful Approaches to Conflict through Education (P.A.C.E.), a training organization in conflict resolution education for student volunteers, was founded in 1997 by Dr. Judy Rashid at NC A&T State University. The organization seeks to promote, practice, and provide training and skill development in conflict /crisis management.
Serving the Public: The Case for Formally Professionalizing Court-Connected and Litigated-Case Mediation (4/14/14) Jennifer Kalfsbeek, Jack Goetz Recognized professions are occupations that: 1) serve the public, 2) possess common ethical codes, 3) self-regulate, 4) require specialized education, and 5) possess authority. Mediation does not meet this sociological definition, yet mediators oftentimes see themselves as “professionals.” Public accountability needs have steered court mediator panels in the United States to establish some requirements resembling those of formalized professions, and market forces are driving litigated-case mediation, as a sub-set of the entire mediation field, towards professionalization. These factors, and greater efficiency in the use of public resources, suggest that society would benefit from professionalizing litigated-case and court-connected mediation practice.
Judicial Activism Essential to Make Mediation Mainstream in South Africa (4/04/14) Jacques Joubert Courts in the UK impose cost sanctions on parties who unreasonably refuse or fail to mediate. In the US, mediation is more firmly embedded in the litigation process, the courts applying varying degrees of coercion to encourage the parties to participate in mediation. In some US states, disputes that fall in a certain category have to be mediated before being litigated. In other states, judges have the discretion to order the parties to mediate. The goal of the UK and US approaches is the same: the optimal use of mediation by litigants and less reliance on adjudication.
Mindful Listening to Enhance Leadership Performance (4/04/14) Aldo Civico I am often asked this question: how come that guerrilla fighters, paramilitary leaders and gang members sit down with you and confess to you? More often than not, I respond with a smile and a gentle shrug of the shoulders, but over the past few weeks, as I was designing a new training in effective communication, I pondered that question and wondered about the listening skills I honed in 20-plus years of conflict resolution work in hot spots across the world 1 Comment
Why Mediate.com? (4/02/14) James Melamed After 18 years as CEO of Mediate.com, I know the answer to "Why Mediate.com?" Our purpose from the beginning has been to both reflect and drive the development of valuable mediation services on a global scale.
Mediation Pioneer Richard A. Salem 1930-2014 (3/31/14) Richard Salem Dick Salem passed away on March 22, 2014 due to complications from a stroke. He was a mediation pioneer whose career took him from the city desk at the Washington Post to mediating high profile civil rights cases as the Midwest Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service. He was also my father, and I know that it was a distinct privilege for him to serve our field for more than 40 years. 2 Comments
Yes, It Can Be Done: Ten Mediation Program Models, One Online System (3/30/14) Jennifer Shack When Resolution Systems Institute received a grant from the Illinois Attorney General to develop foreclosure mediation programs across the state, it was our opportunity to practice what we preach. From RSI’s inception, we’ve been telling courts that they need to monitor and evaluate their mediation programs to ensure that they’re providing quality services to those who come to them to resolve disputes. We’ve also been urging them to incorporate the development of a monitoring and evaluation system into their program design process.
Marriage 101 for Family Mediators (3/29/14) Larry Gaughan Those of us who have been in the trenches of family law practice for decades have lots of experience with bad marriages. We each probably know more gruesome details about marriage breakups than we care to remember. But most of us also know the details to what makes a marriage great. 1 Comment
Respect (3/28/14) Uma Ramanathan A mediator often has to deal with High Conflict people and their defensiveness, and, in the attempt to defuse the situation, the mediation often gets emotionally drawn into the conflict resolution by taking the responsibility of the outcome to be his goal. This article reminds mediators of their true purpose.
Facts, Law, and Worldview (3/28/14) Stuart M. Israel We trust that judges strive for neutrality, objectivity, self-reflection, and humility. Still, sometimes being in court feels like being Nathan Detroit shooting craps with Big Jule, with dice from which Big Jule removed the spots. Big Jule remembers where the spots used to be.
How Dating Can Cause Stress For Your Child (3/21/14) Shannon Rios Paulsen The truth about dating is that it can cause stress for your children. You impact their level of stress by your actions. It is my view that parents must do all things possible to mitigate the effects of the divorce on their children. One easy way to do this is to be conscious of your dating. Dating done wrong has the potential to cause stress for children for three crucial reasons, and they are important to understand. 2 Comments
Mediation: The Greeks Have a Word for It (3/21/14) Katherine Triantafillou Mediators are fond of pointing out the transformative effects of successful mediation in the world of peacebuilding and so it is with the formation of a new center providing services to working class communities in Greece. In fact, the group of facilitators bringing the center to life call themselves “Team Metaplasis,” meaning “transformation” in Greek. 1 Comment
Understanding Faith-Based Mediation: A Multidimensional Model (3/14/14) Ricardo Padilla This paper reflects on the necessity and efficacy of a Faith-Based Mediation approach for Dispute Resolution, and intends to answer three leading questions: First, why is Faith-Based Mediation necessary for the religious communities and people? Second, what are the fundamental referents of a Faith-Based mediated process? And third, how can a Mediator be useful in Faith-Based Mediation? 6 Comments
Mediation: A Process for Empowerment of Both Parties (3/14/14) Dr. Lynne C. Halem Mediation has long been identified as a process which promotes the self-actualization and empowerment of the individual participants. But what does empowerment mean? Clearly, it would not be a “good” outcome for mediation to encourage individuals to learn to be aggressive or confrontational or to stubbornly stand their ground, so empowered are they by their newfound self-worth or importance. Nor is empowerment akin to granting individuals his or her own bully pulpit. Rather, in mediation, empowerment represents individual growth and new found personal confidence and strength, as well as the acquisition of new skills. 1 Comment
What Movie Do You Want To Make? (3/08/14) Jeffrey Krivis The arc of a litigated case has many narratives, particularly when it comes to settlement opportunities. While some cases fall into standard, often repeated formulas, others cannot be scripted. Yet, there are moments in the cycle of a case where some litigators simply react to events as they unfold rather than actively creating the settlement drama. The drama of a case is like storytelling in a trial, where events unfold in front of an audience of people who are in a position to evaluate and put a price on the story. Knowing what scripts are available in advance will assist in being less reactive and more resilient in achieving a better process and successful resolution.
A Practical Guide to Comprehensive Conflict Management Systems (3/07/14) Carole Houk, Deborah Katz Many organizations have embraced alternative dispute resolution. Yet, they continue to search for more comprehensive approaches that help them not only to resolve conflicts that have escalated into disputes but also to manage risk, manage relationships and manage their bottom line. Is the answer to this search integrated conflict management systems (ICMS)?
Lessons in Mediation: Use Your Words (3/07/14) Gary Harper How often have found yourself in conflict with someone who you felt was “acting like a spoiled brat” or “behaving like a child”? If you have, you’re in good company. You’re also closer to understanding these situations than you thought you were, for difficult behaviour in adults often reflects strategies learned as children. 1 Comment
Bilingual Mediation, Part 2 (3/07/14) Bernard Nguyen As a dispute resolution practitioner, one must constantly assess oneself in various elements, aspects and total competency before taking a task, assignment, or mission to manage the process of mediation where parties are not able to communicate in a culturally competent level. To be an effective bilingual mediator, one should possess the cultural sensibility and linguistic competency to quickly create a rapport that subsequently opens parties up for amicable dialogue. 1 Comment
The Case for Forgiveness in Legal Disputes, Part 2 (3/07/14) Eileen Barker The case for forgiveness in legal disputes. Without emotional healing and forgiveness, even when a case is settled in mediation, parties are often left with more hostility and mistrust than when they began. This article discusses the importance of encouraging forgiveness in clients.
Mediation Feedback: Who is it For? (2/28/14) Michael Jacobs This article is the result of switching seats – moving from practitioner to party. Every mediation service I've worked for sends out feedback forms. Sometimes immediately after sessions, sometimes a few weeks later. This experience made me question the importance of mediation evaluation.
Bilingual Mediation (2/28/14) Bernard Nguyen Recently, numerous websites marketing bilingual mediation services in the States have appeared. To many, this may be a negligible appearance, but to some, it is a core part of their own breath and heartbeat, because they are either active amongst the community that inherited a culture and language other than English; or they are living isolated, sustained by a culture and language other than English; for instance, the deaf community and perhaps the blind community as well.
The Case for Forgiveness in Legal Disputes (2/28/14) Eileen Barker Although the notion of forgiveness may seem far afield from the world of law, forgiveness is a powerful and important tool for conflict resolution. Litigants need legal solutions, but they also need peace, healing, and closure. Forgiveness provides a vehicle for achieving all of these. 5 Comments
WYSI[N]WYG (2/28/14) Ian MacDuff In the early days of personal computing, the development of the “graphical user interface” was accompanied by the acronym, WYSIWYG: “What you see is what you get.” While some frustrated computer users know that this was never entirely true, or might only have been true for the computer boffins who designed the interface, the idea was nevertheless an important one: what was there on the surface was what you had to deal with – folder and files and trash cans were all there on the virtual “desktop.”
Best Practice Guide on the Use of Mediation in Cross-Border Disputes (2/21/14) Jamie Walker, Zeno Daniel Sustac Sometimes, the act of justice leaves one or more parties being unsatisfied with a judicial decision and generates a resolution based on the “loser-winner” paradigm. The consequence is often, in addition to the preservation of their conflicted status, the prolonging of the expensive and stressful judicial dispute. Mediation, as an alternative method of conflict resolution, starts with the principle of seeking to most capably satisfy the parties’ interests with a sustainable agreement based on free will. This approach, in the context of globalization, confers mediation with the quality of being an effective cross-border and cross-cultural method of conflict resolution. This article is an excerpt of a thesis analyzing the benefits and unforeseen consequences of mediation in cross-border disputes. This article focuses on the importance of training mediators on cross-border disputes.
Third Party Assisted Negotiation and High Pressure Settlement of Disputes (2/21/14) Rachel Virk After twenty years of marriage, two parties separate. They are each college educated and gainfully employed. The parties have two children whom they hope to send to college, ages 13 and 15. They have amassed many assets during their marriage. This articles discusses how our current legal system does not have an effective way of dividing the mutually valued sum of these two people's lives.