Trained mediators needed for Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Program


By Hon. Janet T. Neff

A major part of the civil docket of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan is made up of Prisoner Civil Rights cases.  They comprise about 40% of the court’s civil filings, about 425 cases a year.  Many of these cases involve complaints about the conditions of confinement in federal and state prisons and/or prisoners’ claims of excessive force on the part of the guards.  

In response to the need to process these cases efficiently the Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Program was approved by the district judges of the court in 2018.  The program assists the parties in settling prisoner cases without the need for further court action.  

The program has been very successful, resolving more than 50% of the cases that have gone to mediation. The benefit to the court is not only in saving resources, but in resolving conflicts to the benefit of the parties without protracted litigation.

This very successful program needs additional trained mediators.

Here is how the process works: PEM mediations are conducted in half-day sessions by Zoom on Wednesdays and Fridays. Mediators are free to conduct the mediation from the location of their choice. 

Using “virtual rooms,” the mediator meets jointly with all parties or separately and confidentially with each party and counsel to discuss the issues, with the goal of achieving settlement.

To be considered for certification as a pro bono mediator the applicant must (1) have at least five years’ experience as a lawyer (federal and/or state practice), (2) be a member in good standing of this Court’s bar, (3) successfully complete four hours of free training, and (4) agree to serve as a mediator in a pro bono capacity at least 5 times in a 2 year period.  

The GRBA has a long history of stepping up when the Court needs assistance. 

Please consider whether, as part of your pro bono commitment, you are willing to serve the Court and litigants through the PEM Program.  

For more information email Magistrate Judge Philip J. Green at  

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