Early Settlement Mediation is a program that is funded by the Administrative Office of the Courts of Oklahoma. The South Central Program is sponsored by East Central University and housed in the Carter County Courthouse in Ardmore. The program provides convenient access to dispute resolution proceedings which are fair, effective and inexpensive by utilizing volunteer mediators. The volunteer mediators help individuals explore solutions and reach mutually satisfactory agreements to disputes outside of the courtroom at little to no cost. Mediation is free to all court referred cases and only $5 per party to all non-court related disputes.
Early Settlement scheduled 133 cases in Durant in the last fiscal year with a program settlement rate of sixty-two percent. “With the number of cases coming into the Courts, scheduling is a constant problem,” says Bryan County Associate District Judge Rocky Powers. “When Early Settlement conducts a successful mediation, those cases come off of our dockets, making room for those cases that can’t or won’t settle. That is a benefit to the Courts and to the public.”
Unlike a court hearing, in mediation the individuals are the ones who decide the outcome of their case if possible. If they are unable to reach a mutual agreement in mediation, they then have the opportunity for the Court to rule in their case. “When parties settle in mediation they have an active role in making the decisions that will significantly affect their lives,” says Judge Powers. “I generally tell the parties that any agreement they can reach is going to work better for them than any orders they leave up to me.”
The Early Settlement Mediation South Central program is offering a basic mediation course to recruit new volunteers in the Durant area. The training will be held in Durant on March 1-2, 2017. This course is free and it serves as the first step in certifying new volunteer mediators to conduct mediation sessions under the authority of the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act of 1983 and the rules and procedures outlined by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Applicants must be able to volunteer for 10 hours a year for a minimum of two years. Additional family and divorce advanced training is available to certified volunteers upon approval of the Program Director.
Mediating for the court offers a unique and challenging means of community service that benefits both the court system and the citizens within the local region. This mediator training and volunteer experience provides a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and satisfaction. “I would encourage anyone who is interested in the Court System and in making it more effective and accessible to volunteer,” said Judge Powers. “Early Settlement makes a big difference and is a true working answer to complaints and criticism about the courts. They help people with problems and bring peace to stressful circumstances.”
The training is designed to develop communication skills and techniques that will enable mediators to assist disputing parties in finding creative and workable solutions to conflict. The knowledge and skills acquired in the basic mediation course are valuable tools, which an individual may also use for conflicts, which arise in the day-to-day work, school, and family environment. Seating for this basic training is limited, so individuals interested in applying may obtain an application by contacting Jaxie Johnston, South Central Program Director, at (580)221-5524. Additional program information can be found at www.earlysettlementsouth.com.
Questions and answers by Judge Powers
Q: In what ways does Early Settlement help the courts by settling cases in mediation?
(small claims & family cases)
A: Early Settlement mediation is in my opinion, a real blessing to the Courts and the parties.
With the number of cases coming into the Courts, scheduling is a constant problem. When Early Settlement conducts a successful mediation, those cases come off our dockets, making room for those cases that can’t or won’t settle. That is a benefit to the Courts and the public.
Q: Do you think people are more likely to stick to and abide by their agreements they make in mediation rather than a Judge ruling in their case?
A: In family relations cases such as divorces and paternity cases, I generally tell the parties that any agreement they can reach is going to work better for them than any orders and issues they leave up to me.
When parties settle in mediations they have an active role in making the decisions that will significantly affect their lives and they can more readily accept the decisions in which they are participants.
When they leave those decisions to the Court, they will have orders and decisions affecting their lives being imposed by an outsider – The Judge. Those are often much harder for parties to accept and they are orders, not options.
Q: Early Settlement is recruiting new volunteer mediators in the Durant area. What words of encouragement to Durant citizens do you have for them to volunteer for Early Settlement in their community?
A: I would encourage anyone who is interested in the Court System and in making it more effective and accessible to volunteer. Early Settlement makes a big difference and is a true working answer to complaints and criticism about the courts. The help people first, though.
Anyone can criticize and complain but too few are willing to actually be part of the answer. Early Settlement helps people with problems. They bring peace to stressful circumstances.
As a bonus, people may find that the conflict resolving skills they learn are pretty handy in their own daily lives.
Submitted by Early Settlement South Central.