Standards for Mediators in Court-Connected Programs

For Release: February 16, 2000
Contact: Thomas Farrell, (609) 984-2337

The New Jersey Supreme Court today announced the publication of Standards for Mediators in Court-Connected Programs, approved by the Court in January. The Supreme Court Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution (CDR) originally developed the standards, drawing on model standards developed by professional mediation associations, those in use in other states, and various studies of standards. They were published for comment by the Court last summer with modifications subsequently made based on some of the comments received.

The standards apply to all mediators both in the Superior Court and in state court-connected programs in the municipal courts. Mediators may be court staff, volunteers, or paid by the parties. The standards are intended to instill and promote public confidence in the mediation process and to be a guide to mediators in discharging their professional responsibilities.

Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which an impartial third party, the mediator, facilitates negotiations among disputants to help them reach a mutually acceptable settlement. Mediation programs can provide significant benefit to disputants, primarily because the parties take an active role in the process. In most instances, mediation can save the parties both time and money. Most important, mediation is confidential and, therefore, an excellent forum for resolving a variety of disputes.

As the standards make clear, mediators do not decide matters. Rather, they rely on the ability of the parties to reach a voluntary agreement without coercion. To facilitate an atmosphere in which this fundamental principle can be met, the standards call upon mediators to maintain their impartiality, disclose all actual and potential conflicts of interest reasonably known to them, only mediate when they possess the necessary qualifications to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the parties, maintain the confidentiality of the mediation proceedings, maintain the quality of the mediation process, and fully disclose any applicable fees and charges to the parties. In relevant instances, court rules governing CDR are referenced in the document.

The standards specifically prohibit a mediator or any professional member of that mediator’s firm/office from subsequently representing or providing professional services for any party to the mediation proceeding in the same matter or in any related matter. The standards also prohibit a mediator or any member of the mediator’s firm/office from subsequently representing or providing professional services for any party to the mediation proceeding in any unrelated matter for a period of six months, unless all parties consent after full disclosure.

Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz has appointed an Advisory Committee on Mediator Standards to assist mediators who seek advice on their interpretation and to monitor complaints about mediators received from attorneys or parties in mediation so as to provide data as to whether a more formal complaint process should be developed in the future. The Committee is drawn from members of the Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution who are knowledgeable about the standards, and is chaired by Superior Court Judge Patricia Richmond LeBon. Members, all experienced mediators, include Sanford M. Jaffe, Esq., Director of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Rutgers University; Robert E. Nies, Esq.; Richard H. Steen, Esq. and Ronald M. Sturtz, Esq.

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