Monday, July 14, 2008

"Surrendering to Mediation"-Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

I have pasted below the full text of a short and sweet article from the The Orlando Sentinel about how and why mediation works and why you might want to give it a try. But first, I'd like to provide an excerpt about the Charles Dickens' novel, The Bleak House, which is referenced in the Sentinel article, to give you the appropriate context for the Sentinel article.

From David Perdue's Charles Dickens page on The Bleak House: 'Dickens' ninth novel, illustrated by Phiz, was intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out suits in the Courts of Chancery. Dickens had observed the inner workings of the courts as a reporter in his youth and observed that "The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself". Bleak House is often considered Dickens' finest work although not his most popular.'

Mini Plot from David Perdue: 'The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in the High Court of Chancery, has been going on for a long time. The current Jarndyce, John, owner of Bleak House, has little hope of gaining anything from it. On her aunt's death Esther Summerson is adopted by Jarndyce and becomes companions to his wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. Carstone has hopes that the chancery case will make his fortune.'

'As the story unfolds it is revealed that Esther is the illegitimate daughter of Captain Hawdon and Lady Dedlock. When the Dedlock's lawyer, Tulkinghorn learns of this, and tries to profit by the information, he is murdered by Lady Dedlock's former maid. Lady Dedlock flees and later dies at the gates of the cemetery where Hawdon lies buried.'

'John Jarndyce has fallen in love with Esther and asked her to marry him. She consents out of respect for Jarndyce but during the engagement she falls in love with Allan Woodcourt. When Jarndyce learns of her feelings for Allan he releases her from the engagement and she marries Woodcourt. The chancery case comes to a close with court costs eating up all of the estate. Carstone, who has married Ada, dies in despair.'

Now that you have this elaborate context, here is the Sentinel article:

When to surrender to mediationAdrian G. Uribarri Sentinel Staff Writer
July 14, 2008
A contested inheritance sparked the surreally drawn-out case in Charles Dickens' Bleak House. By the time Jarndyce and Jarndyce was over -- generations after it began -- legal costs had devoured nearly the whole estate.

Dickens wrote the novel as a critique of the British judicial system, whence the United States inherited much of its law. More than 155 years later, much remains familiar about the old Dickensian dispute.

But today, there is at least one way to avoid the horrors of Jarndyce and Jarndyce: mediation.

The process involves a neutral party, usually an attorney, hired by you or your lawyers to steer negotiations with the other side. It's confidential and binding, and though it's not always successful, it usually works in less time and with lower costs than going to court.

"I probably settle 90 percent or more of my cases in mediation," says Richard West, a marital and family lawyer and mediator in Orlando. "Without this, the court system would be hopelessly bogged down."

West says that in mediation, parties in dispute can fashion their own solutions to problems rather than rest their fates in the hands of a judge. In Orange and Seminole counties, West says, divorcing couples can't even set a hearing without trying mediation first.

"If it doesn't work," West said, "you end up in front of a judge anyway."
Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at or 407-420-6269.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paula, thanks for a thought-provoking post about mediation and this great 19th century novel. Funnily enough, I am reading Bleak House right now, so I was delighted by the serendipity of your post.