Vale Sir Laurence Street

On June 21 Sir Laurence Street passed away. Sir Laurence will be remembered by many. I am one of the many. As well as holding many significant public offices, Sir Laurence mingled with practitioners at all sorts of ADR gatherings. He was, for example, a regular delegate at the National Mediation Conferences. His succinct booklet, Mediation: A practical outline has become a classic among practitioners. Resolution Institute has expressed the loss that is felt by members throughout Australia. and New Zealand.

My memories will be of lively conversations with Sir Laurence.

Music to my ears 3: Address by Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice Supreme Court of Western Australia, Perth 6 March 2018

Mediation and court: diagrammatically distinct… experientially …?

This post is the third in a series of three:  ‘Music to my ears 1- 3’. It was prompted by a paper presented by  the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Hon Wayne Martin AC,  in March 2018.

Music to my ears 1‘ raises the possibility that there are some similarities in both the scope and the constraints of court procedure and mediation processes .

Music to my ears 2 explores the possibility of some similarities by transposing ‘court’ to ‘mediation’ to establish the extent to which the statements originally referring to court procedure can be read as broadly describing mediation processes.

This post, ‘Music to my ears 3’, builds on apparent similarities of the scope and constraints of court procedure and mediation processes by translating the comments of the Chief Justice into the concepts and then into the language of mediation to begin to explore the notion that it may be the language of each of the processes that contributes to them being perceived by many to be antithetical.

If that can be done meaningfully then I suggest that from participants’ perspectives, perhaps it is in part the language used by each that distinguishes one from the other. This possibility raises thoughts of participants receiving explanations of the two processes in terms of what they have in common and how they are distinct rather than the current situation of one process being seen to be the antithesis of the other; one process and its proponents being seen to be undermining the process and proponents of the other.

  • Chief Justice re Court

It is important to remember that the issues of fact resolved by a court are only those which the parties choose to present, and that they must be resolved on the basis of the evidence presented by the parties. p. 8 under the heading ‘The Constraints upon Adjudicated Outcomes’

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

At mediation it is significant that the information is provided by participants and is the information that participants individually and collectively choose to present. Typically it is presented throughout the stages of the ‘top triangle’, where in the exploration stage everything that may become relevant to reaching resolution is aired in an environment of ‘all information is valid… maybe differently valid’. It is that information that is referred to when, during the stages of the second triangle, the mediator facilitates participants’ creation of options, followed by reality testing, filtering and then reaching agreement, as appropriate.

  • Chief Justice re Court

In the adversarial system there is no practical capacity for a court to conduct its own investigations to establish the truth, nor is there any obligation upon the court to arrive at some notion of absolute or independent truth.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

At mediation the notion of truth is often conceptualised by participants as significantly similar recollections which can cause and can result from ‘workable truths’, that is, participants’ perceptions of reciprocated authenticity underpinned by acceptance (and possible disagreement) of  others’ perspectives.  These ‘workable truths’ appears to be present in a tenuous way throughout mediation for many participants.

‘Workable truths’ are person and therefore mediation specific. Mediation is future focused: the question of truth in mediation is a question of ‘workable truths’ projected to unknown and dynamic circumstances. In mediation, truth often refers to a commitment to future honesty, predicated on privacy.

  • Chief Justice re Court

Australian courts are not commissions of enquiry and can only view the facts through a prism of the evidence presented by the parties, which may or may not give a true view.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

Mediations are private and consider only participants’ and constituents’ future focused interests, all of which, because they are developed from the past and are dynamic in the present, have a significant hypothetical element to them.

  • Chief Justice re Court

Similarly, courts are generally constrained to adjudicate only upon the legal issues presented by the parties and have very little capacity to take the law in a direction not proposed by at least one party.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

At mediation the issues are those identified by the mediator and agreed by the participants. Typically the agreed issues form an agenda, each item of which is future focused, neutral and mutual. Agenda items can relate to any and all domains of participants’ decision-making: legal, moral, interpersonal, practical etc

  • Chief Justice re Court

The constraints imposed upon a court by the way in which the parties choose to present their case somewhat diminish the normative value of public adjudication.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

The outcomes of most mediations almost always remain private outcomes which results in little or no data being available for reporting or analysis. With no comprehensive sociological and statistical data available, participants often describe their mediation experience in a way that I shall summarise as ‘pioneering’. Any learning from other pioneers is due to word-of-mouth. Society remains unaware.

  • Chief Justice re Court

We should remember that the incentive of each party is to win, not to establish the truth or to develop legal principles.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation concepts and language

Mediation participants are initially motivated by a constellation of motives. During the mediation their motives coalesce into reaching a durable, practical, private agreement and  in many situations, also to restoring and maintaining at least cordial relationships. Principles are far from the focus and ‘the truth’ (much of it inconvenient) has been relegated to the periphery.

  • Points for further pondering

Ho: From an objective conceptualisation of participants’ perspectives of their experiences, described in both the terminology of the court and the terminology of mediation, the procedures of the court and the processes of mediation are significantly similar.

H1: From an objective conceptualisation of participants’ perspectives of their experiences, described in both the terminology of the court and the terminology of mediation, the procedures of the court and the processes of mediation are significantly distinct.

It would be interesting to be able to measure, with validity and reliability, the experience of court and of mediation and of other forms of dispute resolution from the perspective of participants, constituents and society.

 

 

Music to my ears 2: Address by Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice Supreme Court of Western Australia, Perth 6 March 2018

This post continues ‘Music to my ears 1‘ in which I pondered whether I could transpose an excerpt from the paper by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, The Hon. Wayne Martin AC, from a description of the scope and the constraints of court practices to a description of the scope and the constraints mediation practices.

Below I put my ponderings to the test, changing the legal terminology to mediation terminology and as little of that as possible.

You be the judge!

I like to think that if the Court versions are written in the key of C major then the Mediation version below is written in the key of A major. The F# minor version will follow in ‘Music to my ears 3‘.

  • Chief Justice re Court

It is important to remember that the issues of fact resolved by a court are only those which the parties choose to present, and that they must be resolved on the basis of the evidence presented by the parties.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

It is important to remember that the issues that can be resolved by a mediation are only those which the parties choose to present, and that they are resolved on the basis of the interests presented by the parties.

  • Chief Justice re Court

In the adversarial system there is no practical capacity for a court to conduct its own investigations to establish the truth, nor is there any obligation upon the court to arrive at some notion of absolute or independent truth.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

In the mediation approach there is no practical capacity for the mediation to conduct its own investigations to establish the truth, nor is there any obligation for the mediation to arrive at some notion of absolute or independent truth.

  • Chief Justice re Court

Australian courts are not commissions of enquiry and can only view the facts through a prism of the evidence presented by the parties, which may or may not give a true view.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

Mediations are not commissions of inquiry and can only view the circumstances through a prism of information presented by the parties, which may or may not give a true view.

  • Chief Justice re Court

Similarly, courts are generally constrained to adjudicate only upon the legal issues presented by the parties and have very little capacity to take the law in a direction not proposed by at least one party.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

Similarly, mediations are generally constrained to facilitate to assist parties to reach agreement only upon issues presented by the parties, and, contractually have no capacity to take the outcome in any direction.

  • Chief Justice re Court

The constraints imposed upon a court by the way in which the parties choose to present their case somewhat diminish the normative value of public adjudication.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

The contractual constraints imposed upon a mediation significantly diminish the normative value of mediation.

  • Chief Justice re Court

We should remember that the incentive of each party is to win, not to establish the truth or to develop legal principles.

Chief Justice re Court transposed to Mediation

We should remember that the incentive of each party is to reach a satisfactory agreement, not to establish the truth or to develop societal principles.

  • Points for my further pondering

Based on this excerpt and to the extent that you can live with this transposition, to what extent are court and mediation processes related?

Could CDR be an abbreviation of Consanguineous Dispute Resolution?

  • Next post

Another approach, to put to the test, the CDR test, could be with regard to the currency (the unit of exchange) of the process and therefore of the people involved. In a court, the currencies are rights and authority; in a mediation the currencies are interests and authority.  Maybe that will underpin ‘Music to my ears 3‘.

The mediation process

 

 

Music to my ears 1: Address by Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice Supreme Court of Western Australia, Perth 6 March 2018

Australian Disputes Centre ADR Address 2018 Alternative Dispute Resolution – A Misnomer?

Dispute Resolution in C maj.

The following excerpt from this highly quotable paper, at page 8, is one example among many, of the compelling reading presented by the Chief Justice. It describes the scope and the constraints of the court. For me it raised and started answering questions about the relationship of two approaches to dispute resolution: the courts and mediation.

“It is important to remember that the issues of fact resolved by a court are only those which the parties choose to present, and that they must be resolved on the basis of the evidence presented by the parties. In the adversarial system there is no practical capacity for a court to conduct its own investigations to establish the truth, nor is there any obligation upon the court to arrive at some notion of absolute or independent truth. Australian courts are not commissions of inquiry and can only view the facts through a prism of the evidence presented by the parties, which may or may not give a true view. Similarly, courts are generally constrained to adjudicate only upon the legal issues presented by the parties and have very little capacity to take the law in a direction not proposed by at least one party. The constraints imposed upon a court by the way in which the parties choose to present their case somewhat diminish the normative value of public adjudication. We should remember that the incentive of each party is to win, not to establish the truth or to develop legal principles.”

As I read it, the excerpt pertains to authority; authority of the people involved, that is, of  parties, judicial officers and of the process: substantive and procedural authority.

The excerpt is music to my ears because while it describes aspects of the scope and the constraints of the court; it could, I hypothesise, be transposed to describe parallel aspects of the scope and the constraints of mediation and, for that matter,  other processes in the suite of CDR, ‘Complementary Dispute Resolution’.

My ‘Music to my ears 2‘ post will put my hypothesis to your test. I will aim to transpose the excerpt from court (C maj.) to ADR (A maj.), specifically, mediation.

Court room

Response to Rick Weiler 5 April 2018 on Kluwer Mediation Blog: Whither (Wither) Mediation?

Thank you for your post Rick. It makes provocative reading. Both your analysis of trends of significant concern and your approaches to address the trends resonate with me. Worryingly, (worrying me) the overall effect of the nine + trends is greater than the sum of its parts. There is hope however, because the five approaches to improvement that you identify, taken together, will have an exponential effect on redirecting the trends from withering to thriving.

It is your introduction that captivates me because it contains the key to redirecting the trends from withering to thriving.

“… trends in commercial mediation in Ontario are unsupported by any reliable data – because no one keeps track.

No one records. It’s all anecdotal.”

Why is this?

I suggest that it is because mediators, individually and collectively, have grown dependent upon one aspect of their practice and that this aspect asserts a disproportionate influence on maintaining mediation as a precarious practice. I think of this aspect as a villain, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You say ‘No one records. It’s all anecdotal.’ I hear ‘There is no data.’ Without data we condemn ourselves to being seen to belong among the fads on the fringe; to the alternative sector; a sector that could just as accurately be named ‘unsubstantiated’. How many of us are willing to say that we practice UDR, let alone keep a substantiated record our practice of UDR?

Data alone, however, is/are not the answer. It is data that are valid and reliable that are the passport to mediation becoming a practice of substance and a profession of credibility with a promise of sustainability.

Valid mediation data that is reliable are yet to be identified and agreed. And why is that? There are many, many reasons: some structural, some practical and some mythical. The mythical lead me to my conspiracy theory. IMHO the data-denying villain is a double agent. It has a uni-dimensional personality, characterised by a construct that is revered by mediators across the world; heralded as pivotal to mediation. It is a creature that thrives in the warm, dark, damp caves of mediation practice. As a result, the process and the promotion of mediation, and therefore the practitioners of mediation have become dependent upon it.

Who is the villain?

The villain, in my opinion is confidentiality. Together with its siblings, privacy and inadmissibility, they wield their power, thrive and deprive mediation of oxygen. They keep the would-be data hidden at best, and at worst, they cause it to be released in the form of information, which without validity and reliability, is misinformation.

Step 1 in the revival and the thriving of mediation is to develop a much more sophisticated approach to confidentiality which gives it the status of other constructs of mediation including future focus, peer interactions and inclusivity. Perhaps a sophisticated approach could start with a constellation of confidentiality that is dynamic and incomplete, rather than maintaining  linear, binary, static views of confidentiality, privacy and admissibility.

One among many starting points in the shift from withering to thriving, is to consult a professional statistician.

Constructive Confidentiality in Mediation I

It is generally accepted that confidentiality is integral to the theory and to the practice of mediation. Why? Because…

When discussions are confidential the effect can be emancipating. Free of the risk of judgement by people peripheral to the mediation, confidentiality provisions can contribute to participants’ self-assurance which can be a catalyst for broad, thorough and frank exploration of issues ‘without fear or favour’. Confidentiality can provide a ‘cocoon of safety’.

At the same time, when discussions are confidential the effect can be constraining. Isolated from people who are affected by the issues being mediated and who can affect the durability of the outcome of mediation, confidentiality can contribute to participants’ uncertainty which can delay the progress of mediation and reduce the efficacy of outcomes. Confidentiality can produce a ‘desert island’ effect.

What is confidentiality? Confidentiality is the behaviour associated with maintaining a ‘cone of silence’ regarding ‘something/s’, which in practicality means to repeat the ‘something/s’ only to oneself. Perhaps to keep a confidence involves rumination? Certainly to not keep a confidence could involve ruination…

What is mediation? Mediation is the even-handed facilitation of a structured process during which the mediator is responsible for the process and the participants are responsible for the content of discussions and outcomes. Perhaps to mediate a mediator practices cordiality? It is not mediation if it involves loss of partiality.

Who are mediation participants? Mediation participants are the people who have decided that to get together privately to resolve persistent issues meets more of their interests than to remain apart and maintain issues or to get together publicly to resolve them. Perhaps participation in mediation is to have the foresight of cooperation. It is not participation if it involves advocates and litigation.

Conceptually, all aspects of mediation are swaddled in confidentiality. That is perhaps a reasonable expectation of mediators. To expect of participants what is expected of a mediator is to imply that the experience and consequences of a mediation are similar for each. They are not.

From beginning to end of one mediation to the next, mediators’ experience of a mediation is of mediation and their consequences of mediating are (all being well) more mediations.  Each mediation belongs to the participants. it is fleetingly a joint venture.

From the beginning of their one mediation to its end, participants’ experiences of mediation are likely to range from stressful upheaval to relieved satisfaction, inclusive. Participants’ consequences of mediating involve change and the changes range from outcomes they can ‘live with’ (that then ripple further afield) to no change (that ripples further afield) inclusive. Each mediation ‘belongs’ to the participants: their past, their present, their future… and usually ripple into others’ pasts, others’ present, others’ futures.

Conceptually, confidentiality is absolute. In practice, it isn’t. ‘Exceptions’, as they say, ‘make the rule’. Like the concept of confidentiality, the exceptions, for a mediator, are typically clear and uniform. They are the statutory and/or ethical obligations to report concern regarding harm and impending harm. Exceptions for participants are probably clear and unique. They probably include personal and social responsibilities and ethical obligations to keep those in the ripple zone informed.

In my experience, the confidentiality spuriously required of mediation participants is only occasionally maintained during, and rarely beyond, mediation. (Admissibility, on the other hand, is, in my experience, generally adhered to.) Most of what I have learnt about mediation I’ve learnt from listening to participants. What I have learnt about confidentiality vis a vis participants, is that it is impractical, unreasonable and can be an unnecessary contributor to the tension of mediation.

The discrepancies, and the potential dissonance caused by the discrepancies, between the spurious ‘cone-of-silence’ confidentiality compliance by participants and the actual, open non-compliant behaviour of participants intrigue me.

The tacit acceptance of the discrepancies and the potential creation of procedural dissonance for participants by mediators’ conceptualising confidentiality as absolute concerns me. Participants choose to mediate in order to remove dissonance from their lives. Mediation is a structured process of facilitating consonance that is practical for each and for all.

I practice an approach to confidentiality that overtly integrates the various components of confidentiality with fundamental mediation principles.  This ‘constructive confidentiality’ is confidentiality that is compatible with the mediation principles of participant self-determination ie instrumentality; participant-focused practice ie reality; and participant-constituent inclusivity ie practicality.

For the avoidance of duality and in the interests of finality, ‘constructive confidentiality’ includes (and is not limited to) participants’ reality, which translates (for them) to practicality and (above all) maintains their instrumentality.

My next post on constructive confidentiality will expand on how the construct acknowledges participants’ individuality; affirms participants’ instrumentality and accommodates participant-constituent plurality. In summary, my next post is concerned with how constructive confidentiality is grounded in participants’ reality and how it acknowledges participants’ need for practicality of confidentiality.


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism [ii] http://debate.uvm.edu/handbookfile/pubpriv/046.html [iii] My brackets: ‘only’ is too strong for my understanding of communitarianism

Moving rooms: back stage

Blog_mediatingn online_2

The chrysanthemums are the harbinger of change: watch this space. The other items are whatever you make of them.

Individually and collectively maybe they will facilitate tranquility and convey to participants whatever it might be that will assist each to listen, to think , to speak, to decide and to conclude.

mediation roles participants cascade 140123

This post is part 2 of my move to online and mixed mode mediation. Part 1 involved kittens.