At the heart of it, civil mediation represents a voluntary effort on the part of private disputing parties to be fully and finally left alone: alone to identify and evaluate their respective positions and needs; alone to negotiate on their own terms; and, in the end, alone to craft and effect their own resolution. So why is it that these private mediating parties often have an acute sense that there is another actor haunting their mediation?

It’s the court—sometimes even when the dispute being mediated is not in suit.