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Now that mandatory mediation in divorce cases has expanded to all 21 counties, the New Jersey judiciary is proposing a formal system for review and redress of complaints about mediators. In a notice to the barissued Monday, the Administrative Office of the Courts seeks comments about having the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Mediator Standards review all complaints and, when necessary, recommend remedial action, including removal of mediators from the roster. Comments on the proposal are due by Friday, Feb. 23. Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Phillip Carchman said Monday that with increased use of court-ordered mediation, it is time to replace the informal review process for complaints against mediators, now handled by county assignment and presiding judges. Under the proposed system, all complaints would go to Kathleen Gaskill, the AOC’s manager of Complementary Dispute Resolution Programs, who would keep a registry. If a complaint doesn’t get resolved informally, the Mediator Standards committee would ask for the mediator’s response and, if necessary, recommend one of three remedial options: additional training, observing other mediators, or getting assigned to a mediator mentor. The committee also could remove a mediator from the roster pending final action. If the committee decides a mediator should be terminated, the mediator would have a right of appeal to a panel appointed by the assignment judge in the county where the dispute originated. The appeal panel’s decision will be final. It is not clear from the proposal whether the panel would hear additional testimony. “The appeals panel will decide what’s needed,” says AOC spokeswoman Tammy Kendig. The proposal also does not address whether complained-of mediators will be immune from civil liability or the extent to which the proceedings will be public. “The remedial part is great, but there is no immunity clause,” says Princeton solo Hanan Isaacs, former president of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators. “A person has the option to sue in addition to filing a complaint.” Isaacs also questions why appeals are to be sent back to the vicinages after they’d been heard by the CDR committee, rather than the other way around. “They may have had a reason but I don’t think there’s a county standard they’re looking to uphold,” he says. “If anything they should have done it the other way.” Kendig says that complaints must first go to Trenton in order to track them. “The idea is to centralize the process so we can begin to gather information and to use it to analyze the system to see how well it’s working,” she says.

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