What is Mediation?
Mediation is a flexible, non-binding, confidential process in which a Neutral (mediator) facilitates settlement negotiations. The informal session typically begins with a presentation of each side's view of the dispute, through counsel or clients. The mediator, who may meet with the parties in joint and/or separate sessions, works to:
- Improve communication between parties;
- Assist parties in clarifying and communicating their interests and in understanding those of other parties;
- Probe the strengths and weaknesses of each party's legal positions;
- Identify areas of agreement and help generate options for a mutually agreeable resolution.
Mediation can extend beyond traditional settlement discussion to broaden the range of resolution options, often by exploring disputants' needs, interests, and priorities that may be independent of the legal issues in controversy. Mediation is particularly effective when the parties have an ongoing or continuing relationship, as mediation normally leads to better relations between the parties.
The mediator has no power to impose settlement and does not attempt to coerce a party to accept any proposed terms. If no settlement is reached, the case proceeds as if mediation had not taken place.
OAH Administrative Law Judges who mediate disputes have completed the intensive 40-hour National Judicial College (NJC) Civil Mediation certification course. While California does not currently have any standards for mediators, many other states require a certain level of education, training and experience. The NJC course is designed to meet the certification standards of other states. NJC is the only American Bar Association-sponsored and approved "judge's college," providing judicial education nationally since 1964. In addition, many OAH ALJs have trained with organizations in California, such as the American Arbitration Association (AAA), and have adopted mediation techniques in settlement conferences with a high rate of success.
OAH has different mediation programs tailored to the public, the agency, and the type of dispute.