Still Just A Duck – Not Mediation!
Mediator" by Perry S. Itkin
In an earlier post
I noted that some ADR processes are called mediation when, in fact and practice,
they are not mediation at all! So, what on earth is “binding mediation?”
In the California case of Lindsay
v. Lewandowski, 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 821 [Cal.App. 4th 2006] the
court explored the differences between mediation and arbitration and “binding
mediation”. In the case on appeal, the parties reached a mediated settlement
on all but two terms. The payment terms were left up in the air and the parties
also agreed “in the event of a dispute as to the terms of the settlement the
parties agree to return to the mediator for final resolution by . . . .” Here
is where the communication broke down. One version said binding arbitration, but
had a line through it, and was replaced by the word “mediation.”
Here’s how the mediator described the procedure he intended to use to resolve
the parties’ disagreement [this was not a good mediator move] over the payment
terms of the settlement he had mediated: “[T]he parties have agreed in advance
that in the event the parties fail to agree, I then decide these terms and
conditions, typically by asking the parties to each submit to me their final
offers, accompanied by their oral argument as to why I should select their
version over all others. I then select as the final binding provision the term
or terms of either one party or the other.” [Sounds like arbitration
to me – baseball
There are significant problems with the concept of “binding mediation.”
Among them are:
What rules apply – the arbitration rules, the court-ordered mediation rules,
the mediation confidentiality rules, or some mix?
If only some rules, how is one to chose?
Should the trial court take evidence on the parties’ intent or understanding
in each case?
Three justices on the Court of Appeal were flabbergasted, and one of the
concurring justices called the term “binding mediation” oxymoronic [I
All to say, call the process what it really is – arbitration; it is not
mediation, just a duck! [You know if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck -
it’s a duck!]
Please read and re-read this excellent opinion. How would you, as the mediator,
have handled the parties’ disagreement?
About The Author
Perry S. Itkin, J.D., M.S. [in Dispute Resolution], is a
Certified Provider of Florida Supreme Court mediation certification training
programs for individuals who would like to become Circuit Civil, Family and
County Court Mediators. He is also a full-time mediation practitioner and
qualified arbitrator. The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court appointed
Mr. Itkin to the Court's ADR Rules and Policy Committee and the Mediation
Training Review Board. Please contact him to learn about scheduled mediation
training programs. See his mediation blog "Florida Mediator" at http://floridamediator.blogspot.com/.