Our Court-Connected Mediation Program provides the opportunity for those with cases in the Magistrate’s Court system to resolve their dispute using mediation rather than going to a trial by jury.

This pilot program was signed into effect by Chief Justice Jean Toal and requires that litigants in Richland and Lexington counties attempt mediation before their case can proceed to a jury trial.  Mediators from the Midlands Mediation Center are available on-site on pre-trial hearing dates to provide free mediation to the parties.

In a recent recommendation letter, Chief Magistrate Judge William Womble stated,“My experience with the Community  [Midlands] Mediation Center located in Columbia, SC has been wonderful.  This organization has been instrumental in the execution of a pilot alternative dispute resolution program for the Magistrate Court system in Richland and Lexington Counties.”

Volunteer and staff mediators have been involved in this program, which is generating much excitement in the mediation community.  Richland Magistrate Court Judge Mel Maurer met with our mediators in February to familiarize them with the types of cases and to express the court’s appreciation for their efforts.  Results to date are very positive with over 40% of the cases resulting in an agreement.  This is an important milestone in South Carolina – the connection between community mediation and the court system – and we are excited to be involved.

Kathleen Severens, Director of the Office of Community Dispute Resolution at the U.S. Department of Justice, made the following remarks regarding the connection between community mediation centers and courts: “Community mediation shares a vision with people who are committed to making the world a better place.  One of the most powerful relationships in the field of mediation is courts and community mediation centers.  A challenge we face is keeping the community in the context of court mediation and keeping community mediation’s values in the process of integrating into the court’s value system.

“What makes community mediation distinct?  We believe in a person’s ability and capacity to make their own decisions and take responsibility for those decisions, voice and choice.  Voice and choice is the crux of the tension between courts and mediation centers.  So the question remains, how do we further the interest of community mediation centers within the context of a court setting?

“We must take the community mediation process and make it make sense in the context of the court while being sensitive to the needs of the court.  By connecting with the courts we have the potential to help people with conflict while simultaneously getting the word out about community mediation.  Not only do they learn of the existence of mediation but they have the opportunity to experience the process.”