Mayhew-Hite Report        Perspectives from Ohio’s DR Conference: Enhancing Mediation Services through Court-Community Mediation Center Collaborations

Ayesha Cotton*

Facilitated by  Magistrate Brandon McClain of the Dayton Municipal Court and Ms. Cherise Hairston, a Conflict Intervention Specialist with the Dayton Mediation Center, this session focused on opportunities for collaboration between court systems seeking mediation services and community mediation centers.  Magistrate McClain and Ms. Hairston began the presentation highlighting the supportive relationship between the the Dayton Municipal Court and the Dayton Mediation Center.

To illustrate the difference between traditional court processes and mediation, the presenters provided an example of a tenant who got behind in her rent and was eventually evicted. After the tenant had left the premises of the property it was discovered that she left behind her mother’s ashes. Under the law the landlord had possession and ownership of the ashes because they were left in his property. Through mediation, it was discovered that the tenant had fallen behind in her rent because she was taking care of her ill mother who then passed away. The mediation created a space where the parties could talk with each other openly about their dispute, and were therefore able to come to a resolution where the tenant was able to get her mother’s ashes.

Ms. Hairston and Magistrate McClain acknowledged that there is no bright line rule for when and what cases should be sent to mediation, but encouraged court administrators to consider how to develop mediation programs which work with community mediation centers.  Magistrate McClain discussed the advantages of sending small claims (and other) parties to work with a mediator before hearing a case.  Mediators often bring the parties back to court with a settlement agreement.  However, even they mediators are unable to help the parties arrive at a settlement agreement, the Magistrate McClain expressed his appreciate for the work of mediators, noting that after a mediation session parties are better prepared to present their case.  After a mediation session parties are less emotional because they have taken advantage of the opportunity to express their emotions through the mediation process.  Further, the mediator is often able to empower the parties to identify their own priorities, positions and interests. Magistrate McClain suggested mediation provides the parties an opportunity to “be proactive, not reactive” with respect to how their disputes are resolved.

Ms. Hairston echoed Magistrated McClain’s enthusiasm for mediation and the Dayton Municipal Court’s partnership.  Ms. Hairston described how mediators work with parties to emphasize party self-determination regardless of whether mediators are working with parties in the courthouse or in another, neutral venue.  When asked how the Dayton Mediation Center recruits and trains mediators, Ms. Hairston stated community mediation centers “look like the community”.  Community mediators are often volunteers who live in Dayton and the surrounding area, and are diverse with respect to race, religion, socieo-economics, and education.

* 2L, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law