LA Mediators

Mediators of Southern California

AB 2475 with recent amendment now only applies to matters under the Family Code

Dear LA Mediators

I know there was a recent flurry of activity on AB 2475. It was good to get the info out there, and I think that pressure from several places has resulted in a change to the bill.

On April 22 the bill was amended to apply only to matters heard under the Family Code. A .pdf of the amended bill is attached.

ab_2475_bill_20100422_amended_asm_v97.pdf

If anyone has any specific comments, I have access to some heavy hitters in Sacramento who hold some sway in the judiciary committee, which is the key committee for such legislation.

Bob Tessier

Views: 8

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Comment by Gregory Stone on April 24, 2010 at 12:48pm
IMO, the revised bill is still too broad and opens the door to future litigation intended to test its scope.

I wrote to the staffer who prepared the bill and asked for information regarding the exact problem they were trying to address. I did not receive a response.

Is it possible to push (collectively) for an answer to the question of what it is, exactly, they are trying to correct?

Ironically, I wrote a paper at Pepperdine critiquing the Family Court recommending model, which is instituted on a county by county basis. (Ventura County operates with the recommending model, LA does not.)

Part of the problem, as I saw it, arose from the exemption provided for the Family Court in Evidence Code Section 1117(b)(1). The exemption compromises mediation. If parties are aware a mediator will make recommendations to the court they cease to act in a frank and candid manner.

The resulting confusion between an evaluator role and a mediator role, I argued, muddies the water. All too often I meet people in Ventura County who have had a bad experience with family court mediators (who were really evaluators) and, as a result, turned negative toward mediation in general.

Part of the overall problem, I argued, was that Family Court mediators were not trained mediators but rather were mandated to have mental health backgrounds, which can bring a predisposition to diagnostic evaluation that is contrary to a mediator's craft.

Other aspects of the Family Code create similar problems, such as instructions that negotiations should be undertaken to equalize power relationships (Family Code Section 3162 (b)(3). Such an edict, I argued, predispose "mediators" (evaluators) to play a more manipulative role than a traditional mediator. The edict can predispose poorly-trained practitioners to abandon the role of neutral and become advocates.

Perhaps the proposed legislation results from such muddying of the field with Family Court exemptions to mediation statutes and practices? Perhaps the entire field of mediation has been tainted by these departures?

It makes me wonder if mediators are reaping a penalty for allowing evaluators to work under the title of mediator in the Family Court? Does this legislation conflate mediators with mental health professionals whose values and practices differ from the mediation paradigm? Has mediation been confused with "therapeutic court services," thus giving rise to legislation that addresses problems that are not ours?

Hard to say. I can only speculate with wild abandon, as the staffer did not respond to my inquiry regarding the nature of the exact problem the legislation was intended to address. Anyone have more information or insight?
Comment by Kym Adams Director of CEDRS on April 23, 2010 at 11:15pm
The below was sent to me by a partner DRPA Contractor:

Assembly Bill 2475 as drafted seeks to eliminate the quasi-judicial immunity
that protects mediators and other types of neutrals. This bill is aimed at
Family Law Court Evaluators, however as written, it would affect all
"engaged in mediation, conciliation, evaluation, or similar dispute resolution
efforts under any statute or contract from liability for any act performed
within that capacity". Scary stuff! If passed, the impact on the mediation
profession would be profound.

CDRC and our lobbyist, Donne Brownsey, are hard at work with the author
of the bill (Beall) to greatly narrow its scope to Family Law Evaluators only,
with a specific exclusion for mediators.
CDRC provides this valuable service to all California neutrals with only a few
providing actual support. We need all members o f the dispute resolution
profession to support CDRCs efforts in regards to this and many other
threats to our practices.
PLEASE JOIN NOW. If not CDRC, then who? Your support is needed
immediately. Please join at the highest level possible by visiting
www.cdrc.net The dispute resolution profession thanks you.
California Dispute Resolution Council
1430 South Grand Avenue, # 256
Glendora, California 91740
858-454-3350

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