Original Post Location: http://www.dbadocket.org/professionalism/2015-dba-award-winners/
OUTSTANDING PROGRAM: COURT MEDIATION SERVICES
Long before Court Mediation Services (CMS) was around, a little program called Court Annexed Mediation Services (CAMP) started hiring mediators to help at the local Denver courts. Flash forward a few years, and the entirely volunteer-run CAMP was in exceeding need of support and an administrator.
Jeanne Busacca, a domestic relations attorney (and now Program Chair of CMS), got involved in the effort with John Baker, DBA President at the time, to change CAMP to CMS and get it approved as an official “stand-alone committee” of the DBA. They also hired Lisa Hughes, a licensed professional counselor with a master’s in organization communications and a certificate in alternative dispute resolution, to be the Executive Director.
Since those moments of uncertainty in 2009, the program has grown from 95–100 mediation cases a year to roughly 500 cases a year (currently). Mandatory mediation in the Denver County Courts has also contributed greatly to the growth. Before the courts made mediation mandatory, Busacca and Hughes would have to go around asking: “Are you interested in mediation? Can we help you?”
CMS now provides mediation services to the Denver County Civil, Small Claims, Probate, Protection Order and Domestic Relations Courts. They have nearly 200 volunteer mediators who went through the application process—including background checks and training—to get involved. These volunteers include experienced and young lawyers, as well as a range of other professionals such as human resource specialists.
CMS is a unique program because the volunteers receive in-depth mentoring and constant training, plus observation and peer reviews after each mediation. Hughes notes that they are very proud of how well-trained their mediators are—and clearly these volunteers have contributed to their impressive reputation around the community.
“We have trained magistrates and judges and it’s very satisfying to watch them learn how to help people reach their own conclusions through self-determination and problem-solving,” Busacca says. Hughes is quick to agree, and they both note that, along with receiving the DBA Outstanding Program of the Year Award, many of their memorable moments include the support they receive from the courts.
“We work hard to build relationships with the court,” Hughes says. “And, to find better ways to work together and become more successful in our cases.”
Moving forward, CMS is hoping to expand to help other judicial districts get programs like this in place and to be able to offer additional specialty trainings for mediators. Before this can happen, however, they have to focus on fundraising. More than half of what CMS operates on is from the mediation fees, and the rest is from the generosity of the bar, county court, and community. Those interested in donating to the program can do so through the Colorado Bar Foundation, coloradobarfoundation.org.