The City of Bridgeport stepped in recently to resolve a dispute between a commercial landlord and a tenant relocating to a department store renovated as artist housing and commercial space. Rob Varnon of The Connecticut Post reported on the situation in an article titled “City’s mediation resolves dispute.” The owner of the shop, Flowers and Flour, and the landlord appeared to be in a typical dispute: disagreement over utility charges billed to the shop.
Fortunately, Ed Lavernoich, the city’s economic development planner, took a broader view. The article quotes him as saying: “We say ‘let’s be constructive here rather than pursuing a fight.’” Lavernoich said that the real issue was the shop’s need to stay put a little longer while its new space was renovated. Mediators worked with the parties to reach a resolution that spared both sides the expense, delay, and aggravation of litigating their dispute to the bitter end. Instead, the parties settled their conflict with an agreement to extend the lease for a brief period, while the shop’s new space was completed.
In an article titled “Town Will Enter Mediation Over Civil Rights Flap”, Karin Crompton of the New London paper, The Day, reported that East Lyme and Landmark Development Group, LLC, will engage in mediation to attempt to resolve a federal civil rights lawsuit. The developer claims that the town has blocked a proposal to build hundreds of housing units in order to prevent minorities from moving to town. The town maintains that the site at issue is pristine woodland bordering the Niantic River that should be preserved as open space. The article notes that the lawsuit was filed in October, 2003. The judge presiding over the case proposed that the parties try mediation.
It is difficult at first glance to see how a compromise could be reached that would be acceptable to both parties, if one demands 1,700 housing units and the other demands none. Yet the mediation provides a process for exploring ideas that go far beyond a “cutting the baby in half” solution. The mediation process can open up possibilities for creative solutions that further the parties’ real interests, whatever their stated positions. Parties mediating in good faith may reach a resolution that better suits their goals than rolling the dice on an all-or-nothing decision imposed upon them.
The Wall Street Journal, online, recently ran an article by Tom Lauricella titled “Mediating Elder-Care Disputes.” The article discussed the growing popularity of elder mediation, or elder care mediation, as a method to help families manage and prevent conflicts over challenging decisions involving elderly parents and other loved ones.
As Mr. Lauricella points out, elder mediation can be especially helpful when family members are spread out geographically. Agreements worked out with the help of a mediator can create a plan for family members to follow that eases communication and prevents misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can be triggered easily if old tensions or hurts are still held by family members.
Although disputes that are mediated between strangers usually involve past conflicts that need a permanent and final resolution, these conflicts among family members are often mediated to prevent or minimize current and future disputes. In the article, Forrest (Woody) Mosten, a veteran Los Angeles attorney and mediator, notes one of mediation’s great advantages in this context. Mediation makes it possible to try out possible solutions and find the one that best fits the particular situation, and even allows the family to make changes that they can agree are necessary as conditions change.
The Connecticut Bar Association provides a voluntary and free Resolution of Legal Fee Disputes Program to help attorneys and clients resolve disputes over fees incurred for legal services. The program consists of mediation and arbitration options. Mediations are performed by a volunteer neutral attorney and arbitrations by a panel of three arbitrators, comprised of two volunteer neutral attorneys and one volunteer neutral lay person. You can learn more at the CBA website, www.ctbar.org.
I am pleased to announce that I was recently appointed to serve in the CBA’s Resolution of Legal Fee Disputes Program. I have already had the pleasure of mediating a conflict between an attorney and a client and helping them to find a mutually acceptable resolution to their fee dispute. As it does in many different contexts, the mediation process enabled the parties to resolve their dispute in a speedy, confidential, and informal manner.