Here’s a summary of MEAC Opinion 2006-002 which provides a succinct analysis of the importance of party self-determination and drafting the agreement:
Mediation of a small claims case resulted in impasse. Thereafter, the County Court judge instructed the parties on trial procedures and how s/he was likely to rule in an effort to urge them to settle. The judge then “suggests” that the parties return to a “second” mediation. The mediator in the “second” mediation must carefully monitor the parties’ participation in the mediation to ascertain their ability to exercise self-determination and must be prepared to terminate the mediation if any party is unable or unwilling to participate meaningfully in the process. In the context of small claims mediation, where the parties may not be familiar with the traditional court process and may be intimidated by the proceedings, a mediator is not relieved of ethical responsibilities by writing the “agreement” up as a “scrivener”.
Remember Florida’s Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators, Conduct of Mediation, Closure, Rule 10.420(c) provides:
The mediator shall cause the terms of any agreement reached to be memorialized appropriately and discuss with the parties and counsel the process for formalization and implementation of the agreement.
The Committee Notes to that Rule provide, in part:
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.730(b), Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.290(o), and Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.740(f) require that any mediated agreement be reduced to writing. Mediators have an obligation to ensure these rules are complied with, but are not required to write the agreement themselves.
So, since context is important, do you think MEAC would reach a similar conclusion if the parties were represented by counsel in any type of mediation, whether it’s small claims, civil county court, circuit civil, family or dependency? What if one [or both] party is pro se? What if . . . ? Keep thinking about this!
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