Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lawyers, Guns and Mediation

Recently, there has been news of gun violence at mediation. Given the current debate in this country on guns, I felt it appropriate to make a post about these developments. Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, broke news of an Arizona mediation shooting to Congress last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control. Attorney Mark Hummels was representing the CEO of call center when litigant Arthur Harmon shot and killed Hummels and his client. Harmon, was later found dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound in shopping center according to Phoenix police. Hummels was president of his local chapter of the Federal Bar Association and covered local and state government as newspaper reporter before attending law school, after which he earned the highest score on the bar exam. Hummels and his client were shot in the lobby following a mediation conference with the shooter. Another victim, unrelated to the mediation, was shot in the hand by a stray bullet outside the office building. A report out of Montana concerns a woman litigant in a lawsuit who pulled a gun on an attorney during mediation. Her request to have a felony assault with a weapon charge dismissed was denied. Prosecutors allege she slammed documents on a table, made a final offer and then pulled out a loaded pistol. A struggle ensued, during which a man was bitten and the gun-toting woman fled, only to be caught minutes later by police. She has been jailed on $1 million bail since the incident. As mediators, we are peacemakers and, of course, encourage non-violent resolution to conflict. No one should have a gun at a voluntary mediation conference, just as there are no guns permitted in our courts. A debate among professional mediators has begun on what feasible safety precautions might be taken for those with a known proclivity for violence. It is now evident this type of violence may arise not only in the family law arena, but in commercial and other areas of litigation, as well. See stories-- http://bit.ly/WChml2 (from ABA with multiple news links) and http://bit.ly/WNacdT