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Mediators train for minor court cases
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Juvenile Court Judge Jean Bolin of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit and two other participants complete the recent mediation training session in Liberty County. - photo by Photo provided.
Last June, in Superior, State, Magistrate and Probate courts in the six counties that comprise the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, an additional $7 filing fee was added to all civil actions as Superior Court Judge Robert L. Russell III worked to implement an alternative dispute resolution program for area residents.
The fees that have been collected so far are being used to develop a court-connected program called the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Alternative Dispute Resolution Program. Contracting with certified Georgia Department of Dispute Resolution trainers, the program had training events in Liberty County during February and March, and 18 area residents participated.
The mediation process uses a trained mediator to facilitate discussion between parties, often resulting in agreement between the parties. According to program coordinators, mediation often allows parties to resolve disputes in a faster and more cost-effective manner than traditional litigation.
When it was created in 1993, the program’s goals were to allow the judiciary to handle more cases with fewer resources and offer litigants a lower-cost, faster and effective way to resolve differences without resorting to trials. Since 1997, some 178,000 cases have been resolved through the courts’ 44 Alternative Dispute Resolution programs in Georgia. The savings to taxpayers is also significant as the program reduces the need to pay for more judges, staff and courtrooms.
“We were very happy with the participants who registered to become certified as mediators in both general/civil and domestic mediation,” AJC/ADR Program Director Paula Hendrix said. “This group of attorneys, judges, community and business leaders will be the first in our circuit to make Judge Russell’s vision of a more streamlined and economical court process a reality.”
The program will require litigants who can afford payment to make financial arrangements with the mediator handling the case, however, the cost of mediation for indigent clients will be paid through the AJC/ADR Program. While only certain civil Superior Court cases initially will be referred to mediation, circuit officials expect the program to expand in the near future to all civil cases filed in all courts in the circuit.
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