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Veteran mediator Gary Canner has been tapped by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to head its new mediation office in Miami. In his private practice, Canner presided over more than 5,000 federal and state disputes on issues ranging from divorce and custody matters to civil rights. Now he’ll bring his skills to a new forum, resolving cases already on appeal. “It’s mediation at its most sophisticated level,” Canner said. He said mediation “works on the trial level, and now I am going to be involved in making it work in South Florida on the appellate level.” The office is scheduled to open next month in the Claude Pepper Federal Building. The position pays between $75,000 and $99,000 annually. The Circuit Mediation Office for the 11th Circuit was created in 1992 to help resolve cases on appeal in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. It began with one mediator, Stephen Kinnard, who now is the 11th Circuit’s chief circuit mediator. Two more mediators are based in Atlanta and another is based in Tampa. The idea behind mediation is to get cases through the system faster and more cost effectively. The process permits more give-and-take as opposing sides work toward finding solutions acceptable to all. The mediator’s task is to facilitate those discussions without rendering an opinion. Cases can be picked for mediation by an attorney involved in a case, by a circuit court of appeals judge who is hearing a case or by the mediators themselves. Only civil cases are eligible for the process, all parties must be represented by attorneys and cases can’t be brought to mediation by prisoners. Once a case is selected for mediation, all parties are required to attend and once an agreement is reached, it is binding. If a case does not settle, an impasse is declared, but negotiations can resume until the case is resolved by an appellate court. Last year, more than 1,300 cases in the 11th Circuit were eligible for mediation. Of those, 695 went through mediation and 310 were settled. Another 85 cases were mediated as part of efforts to reach global settlements, for example, a case on appeal that has a bankruptcy action attached. Creation of a mediation office in Miami will make it easier to conduct business in a jurisdiction from which many mediation cases arise. Until now, cases from South Florida either were handled by phone or required an Atlanta-based mediator to travel here. Sheila Cesarano, co-chair of the labor and employment group at Shutts & Bowen in Miami, has had close to a dozen cases mediated over the past four years, all by phone. Cesarano welcomes the prospect of face-to-face mediations. “The persuasiveness of the mediator is enhanced by being in person,” she said. “When the mediator looks you in the eye and says ‘Can you come up with some money to settle this case?’ it’s more effective than over the telephone.” Canner agrees. “The human dynamic of it being in person is important to the mediation process,” he said.

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