Access to justice focus of ABA online programs

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ABA Mediation Week, an annual event that celebrates the growth of mediation as a dispute resolution process, begins Monday, Oct. 19, with virtual programming emphasizing the impact of COVID-19 on access to justice as well as diversity and inclusion in the mediation arena.

The weeklong event is sponsored by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Advocates of mediation say the process saves time and money and is less of a drain on emotional resources compared to litigation, according to organizers.

With courtroom access curtailed and delays in civil cases in the post-pandemic world, the ABA notes that mediation has emerged as an important tool in providing access to justice for various parties.

The kickoff event, set for Monday at noon, is entitled “In the Midst of Every Crisis ... Setting Anti-Bias Standards for Mediators.”

With the resumption of in-person court appearances, attorneys and litigants who are trying to decide whether to choose a jury must weigh the socioeconomic consequences of the digital divide and increased susceptibility to COVID-19 or moving forward with mediation, according to the program planners.

The session explores how diversity is the key strategy for ensuring the constitutionally protected right for litigants to have a jury of their peers.

The rest of the schedule includes:    

• Tuesday, Oct. 20, noon: “How Mediators Can Increase Access for Victims” — Domestic violence advocates have historically discouraged the use of mediation to resolve issues in couples experiencing domestic violence. But, through online dispute resolution and other protections, mediation can expand justice to victims. This program examines this emerging option.

• Tuesday, Oct. 20, 3 p.m.: “Can Mediators Fill the Void Created By COVID-19 Immunity Laws?” — States across the country have implemented COVID-19 immunity laws designed to protect healthcare facilities and providers from civil liability related to the spread of COVID-19. This session will examine whether the new laws provide fair and sufficient protections to both patients and providers, and how mediators can fill the void created by these laws.

• Wednesday, Oct. 21, noon: “Resolution 105 Roundtable” — The panel will review the implementation and progress of ABA Resolution 105, the ABA policy that encourages diversity in alternative dispute resolution. Panelists will offer different perspectives on what diversity looks like, and how dispute resolvers can work together and individually to advance the mission of equitable inclusivity.

• Wednesday, Oct. 21, 3 p.m.: “Offering a Lifeline to Parents Through Mediation During the Pandemic” — This panel will identify the physical as well as psychological barriers that parents face in resolving their custody and parenting disputes — now and in the future. Panelists will also highlight how mediation can be a valuable option for parents to use when resolving their disputes and provide tips to help practitioners make the mediation experience useful and impactful in the virtual world.

• Thursday, Oct. 22, noon: “Accessing Justice through Mediation”
— A civil justice gap exists between the number of people who need civil legal assistance and the few who receive it, according to organizers. Presenters will address the issue and cite cases and stories to demonstrate how mediation is breaching the civil justice gap and providing access to justice.

• Thursday, Oct. 22, 3 p.m.: “Mask Off 3”
— This session, billed as a Revelations and Solutions Roundtable Discussion, is intended to spotlight disparities in the black community in areas of health, education, housing, legal/judicial, employment and law enforcement.

• Friday, Oct. 23, noon: “Does Technology Always Improve Mediation and Access to Justice?”
— The session will focus on ways in which technology can improve mediation and justice processes, identify dangers and shortcomings with certain technologies, and explain how those dangers can be minimized.

Visit www.americanbar.org for further information and to register.

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