Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Leo Papas, mediator, former U.S. Magistrate Judge
Steven P. Dinkin, president, National Conflict Resolution Center
Of the many women accusing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of inappropriate behavior, so far only Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor's former communications director, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.
Since Monday, Gloria Allred, the L.A.-based attorney for McCormack Jackson, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and the mayor have reportedly been in an ongoing mediation, a popular alternative to the long, expensive court process.
The Superior Court of California defines mediation as a "confidential, non-binding process in which a trained mediator facilitates communication between disputants and assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of all or part of their dispute."
Mediator and former U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Papas told KPBS Midday the process allows parties more control.
"You have some opportunity to exercise control on what the result might be. So you have an influence in a result, whereas in court you end up in a situation where you lose control because the judge and the jury are the ones that make the decision and you have no influence other than your testimony," he said.
Papas pointed out the mediator is not the decision maker and does not resolve the dispute.
In the mediation case involving the mayor, McCormack Jackson and Filner would be the ones to resolve their dispute if the process works. Often, it works because a mediator is able to get at the parties' underlying interests, needs and priorities in a more flexible way than can be found in court procedure.
Steven Dinkin the president of San Diego's National Conflict Resolution Center said mediation talks are confidential, which also opens the door for a broad range of resolutions.
"So (it) allows the parties to come up with innovative, creative solutions and it can go well beyond monetary damages," Dinkin said. "In the situation of an employment matter, sometimes the employee would prefer maybe a solid recommendation letter going out to the next job, or perhaps moving into a different division. Sometimes employees want additional training, so there's a whole range of different types of issues that can be mediated and brought into the solution."
While the confidentiality of mediation means the public may not be privy to an agreement if one is made, Dirkin said the decision to go public with the resolution can be written into the deal. In the event the parties do not reach a solution, the matter could still go to court, but the mediator could not be forced to testify.