Persons filing civil matters in the law courts may now ask for the matter to be sent straight to mediation for resolution, as a first option.
And, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson will soon announce a date when all civil matters filed will be submitted for mediation.
He made these announcements during the closing ceremony of a two-day mediation sensitization workshop at the Radisson Aquatica Resort on Wednesday night.
The Chief Justice explained that he signed a new Practice Direction into law on February 8, for the Supreme and Magistrates’ Courts.
“The first new aspect of the Practice Direction is that on filing a civil action in the court, the party filing the action is able at that point to ask for mediation. In the old Practice Direction, the situation was that mediation was considered to be a part of case management. In the new Practice Direction…the public can come in and file and say that I am starting this action today, but before it goes to a judge, I want it to go to mediation,” he said.
He added that the Practice Direction also indicated that “a judge or master shall send a matter assigned to him or her to mediation unless there was a good and substantial reason for not doing so”.
This, he said, was made possible after 43 mediators were added to the court roster to do mediation and an additional 10 expected to be added soon.
“We are now in a position to activate the automatic referral of matters to mediation. So, at some point, though I can’t say when, as we are still going through some teething issues at the court, it will happen that I will announce in a Practice Note that as of a particular date every matter filed, assuming that the claimant did not specifically ask for mediation, every matter filed in the court will be submitted to mediation,” Sir Marston said.
He added that the new document, which has already appeared in the Official Gazette, also contains a means assessment form to determine a person’s ability to pay for mediation.
“We are so intent on making mediation a part of the justice programme that where people come in and say that we cannot afford to pay the mediator’s fee we are going to ask them to complete a means assessment form.
“Once we are persuaded that they are truly unable to pay for the mediation, we are going to set up a situation where they can have mediation pro bono. If a person cannot afford to pay the mediator’s fees that litigant will still be able to be afforded the benefit of a mediator,” Sir Marston explained.
During his address, Sir Marston implored the mediators and attorneys to become familiar with the new practice, and gave the undertaking that he would send a PDF version of the document to the Bar Association for dissemination to attorneys.
“You need to read it [because] it is not the same Practice Direction that was there before,” he urged.
The Chief Justice also disclosed plans for specialization in mediation, and noted that training was expected to be conducted.
He explained that the mindset of the mediator dealing with a commercial matter was different from one of a mediator mediating a family law matter.
The mediators were trained in Court Annexed Mediation under the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening project, which works with judiciaries in the Caribbean to support their own efforts to improve court administration and the ability of the courts and the judiciary to resolve cases efficiently and fairly.