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Judgment Is Not Mediation

August 03, 1992

I was pleased to see that this ongoing dispute was settled ("Long-Distance Dispute Over Sewer System Repairs Settled," July 2) through the use of alternative dispute resolution. The article, however, provided inaccurate information as to the process used in resolving this dispute.

The reporter referred to the process as mediation when in fact retired Judge Jerome Berenson was appointed as a special master in the case. A special master functions much like an arbitrator, rendering a binding decision after exhaustive research into the nature of the dispute. A mediator does not render a judgment or make a decision but helps the parties reach a mutually agreeable resolution. A mediated settlement can then be made binding when all parties agree to it.

There is a wide range of alternative dispute resolution processes being used today, and each process has its pros and cons. The critical difference is in who retains control of the outcome--the parties or the dispute resolver.

Studies have shown that disputes resolved through consensual agreement of the parties result in a greater level of satisfaction and better compliance than those where a resolution is imposed on the parties. Not all disputes can be resolved through mutual agreement. Those disputes call for the special expertise and wisdom of judges, arbitrators and special masters. Bravo, Judge Berenson.

ABE SCHER, Director, Pacific Mediation and Negotiation Center, Oxnard

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