Workshop to train lawyers as mediators for alternative dispute resolution
Stabroek News
August 7, 2003

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The Supreme Court of Judicature in collaboration with the Carter Center will be conducting a seminar in mediation techniques, following acceptance of the recommendation of the Britton Report that mediation be used as a mechanism to help reduce the backlog of cases.

The Supreme Court has placed notices in the local media inviting interested lawyers to apply for places for the three-day workshop being held from September 26-28. The objective of the seminar is to equip a number of lawyers with the requisite skills, who could act as mediators when this form of Alternative Dispute Resolution is formally introduced.

Richard Moore and Steven Weller, who conducted a lawyers’ roundtable here last month on the various forms and aspects of mediation, will lead the discussions.

Melanie Reimer, director of the Carter Center local office told Stabroek News that the organisers hope that between 12-25 lawyers will respond. However, she says that if the response is overwhelming, the possibility of mounting a second seminar would be explored. She disclosed too that if the seminar was oversubscribed, experience would be one of the criteria used in selecting the participants.

She said that the training would be “hands on” with participants between exposed to the techniques of moving the parties from their initial legal position towards their interests or needs.

Reimer said that in addition to training lawyers in mediation skills it is also planned to expose lawyers to the techniques of supporting clients in mediation.

In June a committee headed by Peter Britton SC in its report to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard, recommended “that Mediation be made part of the procedure for the speedy resolution of the backlog of cases and for the continuance of a speedy and orderly flow of civil litigation.”

The Chancellor appointed the committee to explore all aspects of Alternative Dispute Resolution and to make recommendations for their early implementation.

Among the other recommendations is the establishment of a Mediation Roster initially selected from among lawyers with five or more years of practice. This is aimed at facilitating Court-annexed mediation, but with the criteria for inclusion being made flexible to include persons with suitable university degrees, specialised training and/or other qualifications.

Another recommendation called for the existing rules to be amended to include Summons for Direction as found in the English and Caribbean courts as well as the introduction of Settlement Week, which the Chancellor in collaboration with the Chief Justice would designate. During Settlement Week practitioners/litigants could consensually request that cases which are likely to be settled be placed on a list specified for that purpose.

The report also recommended with respect to criminal matters that serious consideration be given to plea bargaining, paper committal and criminal call-over at the beginning of each session and indication of the intention to plead guilty during the preliminary inquiry.

Last month too the Judiciary, lawyers and members of the Rules Committee discussed the issues of case flow management and the various forms of alternative dispute resolution at a retreat organised by the Carter Center and funded by USAID. (Patrick Denny)

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