By Jeanne Busacca
The DBA Court Mediation Services (CMS) program is an extraordinary resource for Denver area attorneys, the courts and the community. Its mission is to “improve the effectiveness of the Denver justice system by providing the highest quality mediation services to the community and the courts.” For over 15 years, experienced mediators with a wide variety of backgrounds have provided mediation for the Denver courts at a low cost. They take time from their other jobs to volunteer. When CMS (originally known as Court Annexed Mediation Services, or CAMP) began, mediation was still widely unknown to litigants, and only a few cases were mediated. CMS mediates approximately 500 cases a year, including county court, domestic relations, real estate, probate and protection order matters.
The CMS office is conveniently located on the first floor of the Denver City and County Building (Room 167). In contrast to the courtroom environment, CMS provides a comfortable alternative and good facilitation for parties to develop their own customized solution to their controversies. “Less Risk, More Control” is its slogan. The program received the 2015 DBA Outstanding Project and Program Award because of its exemplary efforts and success. Mediation participants often remark how pleased they are with the process. Both participants and the judges have frequently stated, “I never thought it would settle.”
Mediation has proven to be less threatening and less expensive than litigation. It has helped reduce judges’ caseloads and produced resolutions that parties are more likely to comply with without additional post-judgment collection efforts.
Some of the mediations are done the same day that cases are on a court docket, while others are pre-scheduled, making it convenient for the parties to prepare. As of January 2012, all Denver County Court judges mandate mediation in their courtrooms. Since then, the demand from the Denver courts has grown exponentially. County court cases may involve contracts, evictions, HOA disputes, collections, personal injury and many other types of cases.
Probate court cases may involve a decedent’s estates, guardianships, conservatorships, trusts or other probate matters. Domestic mediation encompasses divorce, allocation of parental responsibility, child support, contempt and other domestic relations cases.
CMS is staffed by one part-time paid executive director, one volunteer program chair, four volunteer divisional directors, four volunteer associates and more than 100 active mediators. All CMS mediatiors must meet strict requirements, including specific mediation trainings, at least an undergraduate degree, a national background check and a CMS orientation. Each mediator begins in the program as a co-mediator with an experienced “lead” mediatior who mentors the new CMS mediator. Only after a set number of mediations and CMS’s approval can a mediator become a solo mediator. The next step is for the solo mediatior to complete sufficient mediations to become a lead mediator. Lead mediators can eventually receive a portion of the fees collected. Many CMS mediators have been been with the program for many years.
The program is funded by the DBA, the mediation fees collected, the Denver County Courts and other donations. DBA Court Mediation Services program offers quality mediation services and is easily available for Denver area attorneys, courts and the community at a reasonable cost. To get involved, visitcourtmediationservices.org or call 303-322-6750.
Jeanne Busacca is the Denver Bar Association Court Mediation Services Program Chair. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously published in The Docket.