Stakeholders optimistic on dialogue after briefing
October 2, 2003
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A seminar at which 24 attorneys were trained in alternative dispute resolution concluded last Saturday with its objective to establish a roster of mediators from the seminar participants who will be expected to give voluntary service.
Court Manager, Colin Chichester, who is the Co-ordinator of the Mediation Project being conducted by the Supreme Court with assistance from the Carter Center, also attended the seminar.
A committee headed by Chief Justice Carl Singh and which included Court of Appeal judge, Claudette Singh, High Court Registrar Sita Ramlall, Professor Peter Britton SC of the University of Guyana and Radha Krishna Sharma, representing the Private Sector Commission selected the participants.
The participants were selected from the 48 attorneys who responded to an advertisement from the Supreme Court inviting attorneys interested in being mediators to indicate their interest.
The main criterion for selecting the participants was experience in the practice of the law.
A press release yesterday from the Office of the Chief Justice said the attorneys who went through the training would now be “eligible to act as mediators for cases referred to them under the Guyana Court-Connected Mediation Pilot Project being launched next month”.
The release added that in the pilot project the mediation process would be completely voluntary for all parties involved and would be confined to certain types of civil matters already filed in the High Court.
“For the time being, mediation services will be provided free of charge, as a pro bono contribution by the mediators trained for the pilot project”, the release added.
The seminar facilitators were Richard Moore and Steven Weller, US attorneys experienced in alternative dispute resolution procedures, and Deborah Mendez-Bowen, a lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School, and Ingrid Munroe.
The participants were trained in basic communications and negotiating skills and role-playing to demonstrate the methods of mediating between the parties in a dispute.
The draft High Court rules provide for ADR and mediation is one such method.
The introduction of mediation procedure as a method of alternative dispute resolution was recommended by a planning committee, which Britton headed as a means of reducing the backlog of cases before the courts.
Among the committee’s other recommendations is the establishment of a Mediation Roster initially selected from among lawyers with five or more years of practice so as to facilitate 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.
The Chancellor appointed the ‘Britton committee’ to explore all the forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution and to make recommendations for their early implementation.
A pilot project will run until early next year and the Chief Justice says that the incorporation of mediation into the High Court’s procedures will depend on the level of participation by the lawyers and the success rate.
The Chancellor explained that with the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice the rules of civil procedure would have to be in line with those of Trinidad and Tobago, the Eastern Caribbean states, Jamaica and Barbados.
At a planning retreat held in July, Master Christie Morris-Allen, Court Executive Administrator of the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago shared her expertise on case flow management gained through her involvement in the reform of court systems in several Caribbean jurisdictions.
Robin Mohamed, Registrar(ag) of the Trinidad and Tobago High Court and Mendez-Bowen also participated in the retreat.
Mendez-Bowen provided considerable detail about the pilot mediation service in St Lucia and the state of mediation services and legislation in Trinidad and Tobago. Mohamed presented a detailed comparison of the new court rules of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, including references to the draft new rules presently under review in Guyana. (Patrick Denny)