The Center for Dispute resolution in Florida (DRC) was set up in 1986 by the Supreme court, the chief justice who initiated the process was Joseph Boyd. The college of FSUB, which deals with integration of effective information, was set up to carry research and training in the area of alternative disputes. The institute gives assistance to the supreme courts in Florida which are four in number, as well as assisting the board of committees
(Dobbins, 2004). Programs for training mediators and the certification of mediators are also done here, as well as sponsoring of annual Programs for arbitrators and mediator’s trainings.
The ADR policies and rules were put in place by the committee in the supreme court in the year 2003. The rules set by the committee were meant to guide the supreme court in aspects relating to ADR rules and policies, rules on legislation, ADR practices, certification of mediators, and the requirements for renewal as well as for the continuing of mediator education, and requirements and standards for training programs. In 1992, the qualifications board for the mediators was appointed under the rules of Florida for specified mediators and appointment of court mediators. The advisory committee on mediator’s ethics was set up in 1994, and the Training Review Board was established in 1997.
State of Mediator Qualification in Florida
Davis (2007) posited that, under the Florida rules for the court appointment and certification of mediators, the first part sets the qualification for a mediator and their certification. The procedure is established by the judicial branch. The issue which has not been tackled in many states is the practice of mediation. A mediator can therefore practice in a private setting and may not need a license, listing, or even another mode of certification (Michael, 2006). As long as the judge gives an approval, parties are authorized to choose a mediator of their choice.
The Florida rules have set up a list of various certified mediators. A mediator should be included in the list to receive the required court referrals. The requirement for a mediator to have proper moral character must be observed. The other qualifications set up in the Florida rules include; the mediators at the county court are required to attend four mediation conferences at the county, which are supervised and lead by a mediator who is certified, the county court mediators must also observe 20 hours of training for county court certified mediation which takes a three session period.
The family mediators have their qualification requirements which include; a person having a masters degree in social work or in the area of mental health, social or behavioral sciences, or a qualified physician or psychiatry, or CPA or licensed attorney from any jurisdiction in the U.S and an experience of four years is also required in the field, or a family mediation working experience of 8 years (Dobbins, 2004). One should have conducted at least 10 mediations in the family level every year for a consecutive period of three years. The family mediator should have had a chance to observe a certified mediator conducting mediation at least twice, and should also have conducted mediations which have been supervised by a certified family mediator for at least two times. The duration of certified training required for the family mediator is 40 hours.
According to Rogers, & Craig (2005) the circuit court mediators who deal with matters which are not related to family issues, have their qualifications as follows; one must be a member of the Bar in Florida for a continuous period of five years, be of good standing morals and active member in the Bar for a whole year from the time of application to the bar, one may also be a judge who has retired from any jurisdiction in the U.S and should have been a state bar member for a continuous period of five years. A person should have had the opportunity to observe two circuit mediations conducted by a qualified circuit mediator, must have been supervised twice by a certified mediator while conducting a state circuit mediation, and should have gone through a certified training duration for 40 hours.
Michael (2006) posited that, the dependency mediators have their own qualifications which include; having a masters degree in the field of social work, social or behavioral sciences or in mental health, one may also be a licensed pediatrics or psychiatry, or an attorney licensed from any jurisdiction in the U.S. The dependency mediator must have observed mediations carried out by a certified dependency mediator, one should also have carried out two sessions of mediation which are supervised by a certified mediator, the period of training for the dependency mediator is supposed to last for 20 hours. A dependency mediator who has had the opportunity of conducting 4 continuous dependency mediation matters, is supposed to take a dependency training program of 20 hours while the one who has not attained four dependency mediations is supposed to take a training period lasting for 40 hours.
The Florida rules give room for special conditions where mediators who were certified to work as family mediators or as circuit court mediators before 1st of July 1990 are deemed as qualified family mediators or circuit court mediators, for the purposes of these rules. Where a family mediator has conducted a minimum number of 4 dependency matters before the 1st of July 1997, they are allowed to continue practicing for one year, from the time the subdivision rule (d)(1)(c) set the training program. Where the mediators meet the requirements of the stated subsections, they are deemed as qualified and can make an application for certification so that they can act as dependency mediators
Charles (2006) stated that, the Florida rules provide that, all the mediators must observe the continuous training programs which are provided by the certified mediators who are specialists in different areas. Mediators are also supposed to attend to various mediation conferences held by the certified mediators. The purpose of the training and conferences is to ensure that a mediator is informed about any changes of amendments done to the applicable rules as well as improve their skills and understanding of the ADR rules.
Main Statute Covering the Qualification Requirements of Mediators
The state of Florida has an article which contains the explicit rules which address all the qualification requirements for the mediators which is, the The Florida Rules for the Court Appointments and Certification of Mediators. The statute covers both the court mediators as well as the private mediators, but does not cover the specific issue of mediation practice. This in turn means that, a mediator can practice in a private setting and may not need a license, any listing or certification. As long as the judge gives an approval, parties are given the freedom to choose a mediator of their own choice.
The Florida rules however set different qualifications for mediator specialties under the rules. The Florida rules have separated the qualifications and part (a), sets the qualifications for the county court mediators while part (b) gives the qualifications for the family mediators. The circuit court mediators qualifications are provided in part (c), and the qualifications for the dependency mediators are in part (d).
Confidentiality versus Good-Faith Requirement Controversy
According to Michael (2006) the Florida rules for the court appointments and certification of mediators set the responsibility of a mediator with regard to the parties under rule 10.300. This section states that, while conducting a mediation matter, a mediator must honor the right of an individual to self determination, must act with impartiality, avoid improper influence and coercion, and the mediator must not have any self interest in the matter which he is dealing with. A demeanor which is appropriate must be maintained by a mediator, keeping any information from the parties in confidence, and if a party who is not a participant expresses any interest in the matter, it is the duty of the mediator to notify the parties. The practice of a mediator must always reflect impartiality, integrity and fairness.
The controversial issue with regard to the duty of good faith and confidentiality, is in the application of the law and the law in theory. While rule 10.300 stipulates how a mediator is supposed to carry out his or her duties in good faith and confidentiality, external factors have influenced the process of application such that, most of the time the responsibility of a mediator does not reflect fairness and impartiality (Charles, 2006). Mediators have been influenced by wealthy parties, political leaders or even misguided by their own opinions while deciding which decisions should be made concerning a particular matter.
According to Rogers, & Craig (2005) proper mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that a mediator is independent from any other legal institutions, in the exercise of their responsibilities. This is perhaps the best way to ensure that the mediators are in a position to observe the provisions of the Florida rules for the qualification and certification of mediator’s responsibility with regard to the parties under rule 10.300. Without the independence of the mediators, external factors may influence the process and make the application of the rules impossible.
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Charles, J. (2006). Issues in Establishing an EPA-Sponsored Roster for Neutrals’ Services in Environmental Cases. Michigan: Michigan Publishers. Michigan: Michigan Publishers.
Dobbins, W. (2004). The Debate Over Mediator’s Qualifications: Can they Satisfy the Growing Need to Measure Competence without Barring Entry into the Market? Oxford: Oxford Press.
Davis, A. (2007). “Ensuring High Quality Mediation: The Issue of Credentialing.”
Michael, S. (2006). Principles for ADR Provider Organizations. Michigan: Michigan Publishers.
Rogers, N., ; Craig M. (2005). Mediation: Law, Policy, Practice. In “Regulating for Quality. Harvard: Harvard University Press.