For Immediate Release: June 29, 2012
Mediation Program Expected to Yield Significant Benefits
“We have been collaborating over the past year to come up with a way to make the small claims system more efficient, to clear the dockets faster and to use the limited resources the court system has for better tax-payer benefits and use,” Representative Wes Long says of the new Court Mediation Program.
Marshall County District Court now offers trained mediators to help resolve disputes before they reach the court docket. District Judge Hugh Flanagan has spear-headed the program from the courtroom, helping to set up the procedures and documents, along with Mrs. Jean Ann Moon, Director of RSVP, assisting with providing many active and responsible volunteers.
Rep. Wes Long and the Marshall County Legislative Delegation provided the program with start-up funding to get if off the ground. He says many surrounding areas already have these programs in place and have seen significant benefits.
Long issued the following statement. “The court system is a constitutionally protected third branch of government and it has to run efficiently and effectively. Many mediation programs like the one we have just begun, will help, overtime, to clear dockets and help the citizens of Marshall County to deal with the issues they have more expeditiously and justly. I am proud I could be a supporter and I commend RSVP and District Judge Flanagan for their work on this project”
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RSVP COURT MEDIATORS
Marshall County District Court will now offer mediators for Small Claims Court. Seven RSVP volunteers have been trained to help resolve disputes through mediation even before it reaches the court docket.
Funds were secured by Representative Wes Long, District 27, from the State of Alabama Community Service Grants to send RSVP volunteers for mediation training. This will allow the court system to offer mediation while parties wait for trial on the small claims docket, at no cost to the parties for the mediator.
The Small Claims Court hears cases up to $3,000. The docket is called every other Monday at the Albertville Courthouse to cover all Marshall County cases.
Court-sponsored mediation allows both sides of a case to meet with a neutral trained third party intended to identify pertinent issues, clarify any misunderstandings, explore solutions, and negotiate an agreement to settle the case without having to go in front of a judge. Usually, mediation of a small claims dispute lasts anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Mediation allows parties to keep control over the outcome of their own problem without taking it to court. Once a case goes to the judge, he is bound by Alabama law to settle the case. Mediation is voluntary and either party may terminate it at any time before a settlement is reached. Parties, who do not have lawyers or those who do, can ask for mediation. When a settlement is reached, both parties sign that they are in agreement and it becomes binding. If the case cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties, the case will go before a judge to decide.
“There is nothing to lose by trying mediation and a lot to gain”, said Jean Ann Moon, RSVP Mediation Team coordinator. “The Marshall County Court system will see an impact on the docket backlog as more cases are resolved through mediation.”
RSVP Mediation Volunteers will start with the July 9th small claims docket. Parties interested in mediation for their case should call District Judge Flanagan’s office, 256-878-2007, and a mediator will be assigned to the case.
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