Monday, December 03, 2007

More on Open Minds in Mediation

I wrote recently (here) about the necessity of all parties coming to mediation with open minds. Keeping an open mind and not foreclosing options allows the parties, their representatives and the mediator to explore creative ways of resolving the dispute to everyone's satisfaction.

We are reminded of how important an open mind is when we hear about a potential mediation being derailed when one or more parties closes off possible avenues of settlement before the mediation has even started. This is happening in Framingham, Massachusetts, in which a federal lawsuit brought against the town in Boston, charges numerous town officials and two private citizens with discrimination and a coordinated effort to rid the town of its disabled population.

The executive director of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (which apparently filed the lawsuit on behalf of the disabled plaintiffs) is quoted in the article as saying: "A successful mediation requires both sides to come to the table with no preconditions and with open minds ... This week's Town Meeting vote [that the town's legal team should not turn over local oversight or any money in a mediation of the case] was designed to limit the results which might be achieved through a mediated settlement."

And of course, he is correct. Even without knowing all the details of the case or the specific issues, it is clear that the town is putting the settlement options available to all parties into a box they alone have constructed. These are the "rules" the town is imposing and then claiming that they do want to mediate the case. But these kinds of rules have no place in mediation. Part of the mediation process is allowing for some free thinking and the generating of options that expand the potential settlement options, not limit them before the mediation has even started.

You can read more of the details or the full article from the MetroWest Daily News here.

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