It is assumed that a retired judge makes a better mediator than someone that has not been a judge. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rendering judgment requires an entirely different skill set than helping the parties resolve their case through mediation. The day to day activities of a judge do not lend themselves to facilitating the resolution of conflicts. The basic skill that is useful to a judge but not a mediator is the ability to make quick and final decisions on any particular issue. Therefore when they approach mediation they want to make the decision and not let the parties control their own solution to the problem.
It is assumed that 20-years on the bench translates to 20-years experience working with civil attorneys and parties and the issues of civil litigation. In most courts today, very few judges are presiding over civil trials. Most of their days as spent presiding over criminal trials. Even the remaining time of their tenure on the bench is divided between family law, juvenile, probate, and traffic.
The law practice of most judges before being appointed to the bench is not as a civil attorney. Many were deputy district attorneys or public defenders before becoming judges. Therefore they have no experience with any civil issues before becoming judges.
Mediation is a voluntary process that centers on discussions and decision-making, rather than judgment by a judge or retired judge. It is focused on resolving disputes based on the factual circumstances, the needs of the parties and practicality, and not solely on the legal rights of the parties. Often, the mere presence of a retired judge creates an antagonistic and adversarial atmosphere that impedes resolution rather than assisting it.
In reality you want a mediator such as me that is trained in helping the parties resolve their problems.
About the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator. He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment. He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.
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