Monday, October 29, 2012

Pipeline mediation effort backfires

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, stepped down from potentially mediating settlement talks over a deadly Northern California pipeline explosion after state regulators set up a private process criticized by several parties as an unfair, "backroom deal." California's Public Utilities Commission appointed the former senator earlier this month to mediate Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s (PG&E) fine for the blast. San Bruno and San Francisco objected because he and his law firm previously had represented public utilities. This is perhaps unfortunate, as those with industry experience actually may be more helpful to these specialized negotiations. What seemed to really prompt the concern was was the decision to appoint him without prior consultation of the parties. Of course, any conflicts perceived should have been disclosed in advance of the mediation. Over the past couple of years, PG&E faced grueling public hearings over potential malfeasance leading up to the 2010 blast, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco. Read more:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Middle District of Florida

Tonight in Orlando, The Historical Society of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida held a 50th Anniversary Dinner sponsored by members of the Middle District Bar and the Historical Society through the Bench Bar Fund. Senior U.S. District Judge George C. Young was in attendance and said it was his first event outing in many years. Geographically the Middle District of Florida (FLMD) stretches over 350 miles from the Georgia border on the northeast to south of Naples on Florida’s southwest coast. Three of the six largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the state, namely, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando are within the district. The Clerk’s office headquarters is centrally located in Orlando with additional divisional offices in Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Ocala. Demographically over 10 million people, more than 57% of the state’s population, reside within the district. Fifteen of the twenty most densely populated counties in the state are in the Middle District. In all, thirty-five of Florida’s sixty-seven counties make up the Middle District. Florida’s population has increased by about three million each decade since 1970 and now stands at approximately 19 million permanent residents, a 171% increase over the 1970 estimate of 6.8 million. Additionally this state, and the Middle District in particular, is a primary tourist and convention destination adding millions of visitors to those numbers. The Middle District of Florida remains one of the busiest federal district courts in the nation. I am proud to be a member of the MDFL bar and federal certified mediator roster. Read more at: and see my alternate site:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Armstrong Arbitrations

Though the Lance Armstrong saga seems about over, arbitration of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charges continues for some, including the former team director, Johan Bruyneel, who is challenging the agency. Cycling’s governing body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today stripped Lance Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles and banned him for life, following a USADA report from accusing him of leading a doping program on his U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams. UCI's President announced that the federation accepted USADA’s report on Armstrong and would not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Eleven former teammates testified against Armstrong, who denies doping based on his having passed hundreds of drug tests. Armstrong chose not to fight USADA in one of the agency’s arbitration hearings, arguing the process was biased against him. Sponsors Nike and Trek have since dropped him, and Armstrong also stepped down last week as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer awareness charity he founded. The cyclist could still face further sports sanctions and legal challenges, including civil lawsuits from ex-sponsors or even the U.S. government. Read more:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conflict Resolution Day during Mediation Week

Today is Conflict Resolution Day which promotes awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict in businesses, communities, governments and the legal system. Likewise, it is Mediation Week and October has become a time to promote and celebrate peaceful conflict resolution practices worldwide. Dedicated dispute resolution practitioners are helping to educate the public about mediation and other innovative conflict management processes. The American Bar Association's "ABA Mediation Week” is held every year in conjunction with many other national, state, and local organizations, including the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). The State of Florida has also issued a proclamation in recognition of promoting mediation as an alternative to litigation while observing Mediation Week in the Sunshine State. The ABA has wonderful ADR links in its Mediation in the Mainstream themed toolkit found here: The ACR has a dedicated page with great information here:

Friday, October 12, 2012

NYTimes to mediate with Newspaper Guild

The New York Times and the Newspaper Guild of New York will mediate to hammer out a contract according to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper's publisher, who broke the news to staff in an email (though there was apparently some dissatisfaction that the reporters were scooped on the story about the coming mediation). This attempt at ADR comes after employees staged a brief walkout and representatives for management walked out of a negotiating session. One correspondent praised the development, explaining to his colleagues that a mediator listens to both sides, leaning on each of them to give "bit by bit until a deal is reached." Officially, the company and the union have agreed to mediation "in order to maximize the potential of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.” The chosen dispute resolver, primarily an arbitrator, Martin Scheinman, supposedly broke up a bar fight once by convincing one combatant his cue stick was too expensive to smash upon another. The Guild says it proposed Scheinman and tells members “A mediator cannot force a settlement, but instead uses persuasion to try to bring the parties to agreement. A mediator generally does not come up with his own proposals, but rather tries to push the parties closer to their respective positions. Neither side is bound by the mediator’s suggestions or proposals." According to the internal communication, "the union proposed Sheinman not because he’s pro-union but because he’s said to be super-smart. He’s a private mediator – he is paid by both sides to try to bring them to a deal. There are Federal mediators too, but the one assigned to this area apparently is not respected much." It seems there may be internal discord among NYT digital and print contract members, all of whom need to vote to approve a new deal. See stories and

Monday, October 8, 2012

DRC Updates Mediator Renewal Process

The Dispute Resolution Center of the Supreme Court of Florida's Office of the State Courts Administrator (DRC) today put out information regarding a revamped mediator renewal process. Explained as a change complying with the Court's efforts to reduce paper and the DRC's initiative to provide efficiencies to increase productivity and reduce processing times for applications and renewals, beginning in January 2013, the DRC will no longer be mailing out renewal approval notices or providing renewal seals when your mediator certification has been renewed. When your renewal has been approved, it will be reflected on your record on the Florida DRC website at and your renewal date will appear as updated through the next two year period. A confirming email that your renewal has been approved will also be sent. Beginning in March 2013, the DRC will no longer be mailing out renewal applications. Mediators who are due for renewal will receive an email notification three months prior to renewal that it is time to renew along with a link to complete a generic downloadable renewal form. The form will then need to be completed, notarized and mailed to the DRC with appropriate renewal fees and the CME Reporting Form. Requirements of CME remain the same.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Judicial Management Council Created

The Supreme Court of Florida on its own motion this year created the Judicial Management Council of Florida, an advisory body designed to assist the court in identifying trends, potential crisis situations, and the means to address them. The so-called JMC will assist the court with forward-looking vision to better fulfill its mission to protect rights and liberties, uphold and interpret the law, and provide for the peaceful resolution of disputes (could this mean alternative dispute resolution?). Council members are to maintain an awareness of current issues, policies and trends related to the judicial branch in order to anticipate and respond to changing priorities. They will be responsible for reviewing the charges of the various court and Florida Bar commissions and committees, as well. JMC members are primarily judges (though there are a few bar and public members) who will be recommending consolidation or revision of commissions and committees, methods for the coordination of the work of those bodies. Applications are due tomorrow from members of The Florida Bar in good standing who are interested in JMC membership. Information on appointment to the council by application is available at as well as specific information about the council composition, as well as detailed background information, an application form, and instructions for completing the application. This, along with recent changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration that trump Civil Procedure Rules, seems to be consistent with the high court asserting itself.