Judge Howard S. Chasanow died last month, the day before his 80th birthday. He served as a District Court Judge (1971-77), a Circuit Court Judge (1977-1990) and on the Court of Appeals until 1999. While he is remembered as a keen and fair jurist, he devoted the next 15 years of his life to mediating disputes. Many legal experts credit him with creating modern mediation.
In its April 4th article on the Judge, The Washington Post quoted Judge Chasanow: “The phrase I hate most is ‘Good mediation is when both sides walk out equally unhappy,’ Judge Chasanow told the Daily Record of Baltimore in 2011. ‘A good mediation is when people walk out understanding they’ve reached a fair compromise.’” A party may second guess a choice to settle or not settle in mediation, but the parties retain greater control over that outcome than if a judge decides the case.. Mediation can short cut the litigation process. However, it is critical that your lawyer explains your rights, options and alternatives, and that you have all necessary information regarding your case before you mediate. Preparing for mediation is just as important as preparing for trial. If you and your attorney fail to prepare for mediation, then the process can not be successful FOR YOU.
Mediation is an opportunity to resolve a dispute that might otherwise consume the parties’ time, money and emotions. Litigation and a trial can be an expensive method for resolving a dispute. While mediation is not binding (a mediator cannot rule against or for you) the goal is to create a binding and thorough contract that will finally resolve the dispute. A mediator is an experienced neutral third party who meets with each side to explain the range of potential outcomes and encourages them to control the outcome through agreement. A good mediator is qualified, diligent and persuasive to both sides.
Mediation is not always the best option. It takes two to tango. Sometimes the parties are too far apart on issues. Sometimes one party is being unreasonable. Sometimes, people need their day in court to tell their story for the world to hear. However, if your case is suitable for mediation, we recommend having a lawyer on your side to protect each aspect of your case, your rights and correctly memorialize any agreement reached. Thank you Judge Chasanow for a life well lived!