The federal appeals court volunteer-based mediation program

Sometimes, appeals go to mediation rather than to a traditional appeals court. Mediation might be required by a contract or other agreement or it might be the decision of the parties involved. Regardless of why your case might be involved in mediation, if you will be dealing with the federal appeals court mediation process, it is a good idea to understand a little about it.

One of the biggest things to understand about the mediation process is that it is almost fully staffed by volunteers. The volunteers do have to meet certain requirements, so you don't have to worry that someone with no understanding of the law is going to be working with your mediation appeal or case.

The process for vetting the volunteers and assigning cases to them includes two major routes. First, if a magistrate judge wants to volunteer his or her time for these matters, the court does not usually require a lengthy application process. Being a magistrate judge, the person would already have shown himself or herself to meet requirements for the position. And since magistrate judges are not allowed to practice law themselves, there would be no conflict of interest.

If another legal professional, such as a retired lawyer, wants to volunteer for the position, then he or she must complete the application process. The court will determine both that the person is qualified and that he or she is not actively practicing law according to the court definition. The court evaluation will also determine what type of experience the person has and whether there is a need for that experience in the current case load. The system does attempt to match mediators with cases relevant to their experience.

Mediation can be a good tool for certain disagreements, but you shouldn't enter it blindly. Before making a decision about any legal matter, including whether or not to seek an appeal or mediation, consider speaking with an experienced Portland attorney.

Source: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, "Frequently Asked Questions about Volunteer Mediators," accessed March 11, 2016

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