In Winter 2013 the Commission launched a Third Party Neutral Mediation Program ("Program"), offering highly-skilled mediators with expertise in MHRA matters. The Program has proven to be highly effective, resulting in resolution of about 66% of cases that are referred to the Program.
The Commission has a roster of mediators who are assigned cases on a rotating basis. Parties are not allowed to choose their mediators - they are assigned randomly after a conflict check. Generally mediations are allotted up to abut 3.5 hours, depending on the mediator's preference and availability. The Commission presumes that mediations will take place at its offices in Augusta.
The Commission's first-rate mediations are available for a very low fee of $450. Each party to a case must pay $225 to the Commission to secure a Program mediation. The funds will be used to pay mediators a $400 stipend for each mediation conducted. The funds will all be paid into and out of a dedicated, segregated Commission mediation fund.
The funds left from each case ($450 collected less $400 mediator stipend) are utilized to cover mediation costs for parties who cannot afford the mediation fee. The Commission has adopted an application form for those parties who wish to request a waiver of the mediation fee; it will be available upon request from staff. The Commission's Executive Director retains discretion to grant or deny waiver requests. Also, waiver requests are contingent on the Commission having sufficient funds in the Program fund to cover the waived fee.
Payment of mediation fees must be tendered to the Commission prior to the day of mediation, and the Commission may cancel mediation if payment is not made beforehand. Also, if a party cancels mediation after the mediator has already prepared for or traveled to mediation, that party may forfeit part or all of its fee portion. The Commission may in the future move to accept credit cards but currently does not have that ability, so checks should be made out to the MHRC and reference a case number and mediation.
Why should you encourage your clients to pay for a Commission mediation? Quite simply, to save money. Settle early and avoid litigation costs, and get outstanding mediation for a fraction of what you would pay top mediators at a market rate!
Amy M. Sneirson