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Courts Lacking Resources Turn To Mediation

Saturday, July, 27, 2013

It’s no surprise that most of America’s courtrooms are fully booked by a wide variety of issues taking the stage in front of a judge on a daily basis.  Lower budgets and strained resources across the board are calling for innovative approaches to handle an influx of cases with fewer employees and availability.  One approach to managing this crisis is by using mediation to resolve disputes, or ordering that parties attempt mediation prior to engaging in litigation. 


That’s what happening for a sex abuse scandal case in California, where the families and children involved in the case are headed for a Los Angeles superior court mediation plan.  A new judge and new court is hoped to be the opportunity for a fair hearing for this group.  Current mediation hearings are not progressing efficiently, so the case is being moved to a different program to allow for a more expeditious solution. 


Current court resources for the existing mediation program are extremely limited.  More than 300 staff members have been laid off at that facility, so every effort is being made to allow the parties to air their issues and arrive at a final conclusion.  Mediation offers many benefits, since it tends to allow for a civil resolution to the case without months or years of litigation and associated procedures. 


The case specifics include allegations of abuse by former Miramonte educator Mark Bendt, who is linked to 23 counts of lewd acts with children.  The case also alleges that Los Angeles Unified School District representatives were aware of the behavior of Mr.  Bendt, which has prompted LAUSD to offer a settlement of $47 million.  Although the mediation sessions are confidential, it’s expected that the case will move forward much more quickly in the new court.  Confidentiality is a significant benefit of mediation, where some details may be kept out of the public record in order to allow parties to reach a consensus.