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Virtual Mediation Services Available during COVID-19 in Erie County

Tuesday, September, 8, 2020

Many changes have been made to how legal business is conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and mediation procedures are no exception. Residents of Erie County are eligible to participate in virtual mediation through the community dispute resolution (CDR) program. The program was launched in July 2019, and now, just about a year later, the program is going virtual to allow for social distancing.


From the beginning, the goal of the CDR was to reduce the number of cases in the court system when possible by using mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. The NY State Unified Court System provided funded for the program. People involved in legal disputes that have begun making their way through the court system are referred to the program by the assistant district attorney or a defense attorney. Either party can request mediation or it can be a part of plea negotiations.


Before criminal cases are officially accepted into the mediation program, both parties must explain their side of the issue to a mediator. If the mediator believes both parties are committed to the mediation process and are willing to negotiate in good faith, the case is accepted into the program.


The initial mediation sessions are two hours and both parties participate. The mediator oversees discussion concerning the issue and helps those involved explore potential outcomes and examine various options for moving forward. The goal is to reach a resolution that is designed by and deemed accepted to both parties.


Many different types of cases might be eligible for the CDR, with the exception of:


  • Domestic violence issues
  • Issues in which there are no-contact orders
  • Cases in which there are allegations of child abuse, neglect, or anything else that poses a danger to a child