The Resolution Center family, are taking steps to adjust to what appears to be a temporary “new normal”. As you are likely aware, Covid-19 has hit the legal community with an unprecedented response from the Fl. Supreme Court suspending criminal and civil trials, grand jury’s, speedy trial rules, etc. from March 16th - March 27th. In light of this, we have discussed how we can respond to assure you, our clients and patrons, that mediations can proceed forward with the safety of all mediation and arbitration participants in mind.
The Order entered on the evening of March 13th by Chief Justice Cannady references the state of emergency declared in the State of Florida and the high priority to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the courts, court participants and all the people of Florida noting the virus can be spread amongst humans through respiratory transmissions. It is the stated intent of the Order to note the declared public health emergency which requires mitigation by adopting concepts of social distancing to reduce potential person to person transmission of the virus. The Chief Justice has suspended grand jury proceedings, jury trials and procedural requirements that might hinder mitigation efforts. While this Order will remain in effect through March 27th, the Chief Justice notes it may be extended as circumstances dictate.
We have reviewed an email from the Eighth Judicial Trial Court Administrator who states the Chief Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit has authorized that Family and Civil Mediations from March 16-27, 2020 may include telephonic participation, and further, mediators and arbitrators have discretion to continue scheduled mediations and arbitrations upon good cause without the necessity of Court Order. A court ordered mediation may proceed voluntarily in person or through remote electronic means. We believe that if a Court Ordered Mediation or Arbitration is continued it should be rescheduled as soon possible. Accordingly, the choices are: proceed as scheduled, proceed via electronic or telephonic means, or continue the proceedings.
In that regard, our staff will follow the protocols of other public facilities with enhanced cleaning of all hard surfaces in the mediation rooms and common areas prior to the start and at the conclusion of each mediation. We have hand sanitizer available in public spaces as well as hand wipes and of course, there are multiple sinks dedicated to frequent hand washing. We are trying to break the habit of hand shaking and are amazed how difficult that is to implement, especially when meeting an attorney, client or claims handler, for the first time. So, please do not be offended when greeted with a hearty hello or a Namaste bow.
In terms of the mediation process itself, we believe we have an ideal facility at your disposal to accommodate whatever needs you may have. First, a majority of the pending mediations appear to be voluntary and not specifically Court Ordered as to date and time. You may be operating under a trial term deadline, and it is unclear the extent to which all trial related deadlines are being extended, or for how long. For this reason, we have determined your mediations, if you choose to proceed, can go forward as originally scheduled. In this regard, we have sufficient conference room space to allow for “safe/social distancing” and can suspend joint sessions if the parties prefer to limit their face to face contacts.
As an alternative, and in light of limitations on travel and life in general being turned upside down, we can offer remote mediation via Zoom. With Zoom, the mediator will serve as the host and provide you with a video link to join both the joint session as well as the private caucus. We will simply need to ensure we have the ability to patch you and the party into the mediation with a private email address and device with a camera. There is also a function with Zoom to share documents which is why this provider is our chosen vendor for this service. Assuming the mediation is successful, we will circulate documents via email to effectuate the final terms of resolution as seamlessly as we possibly can.
In the event you are not comfortable or simply cannot proceed with the mediation/arbitration as originally scheduled nor participate via video conferencing, we will suspend all cancellation fees until such time as the Florida Supreme Court revokes or suspends it’s Administrative Order. We will certainly work with you to reschedule your mediation or arbitration. Regrettably, given all the moving parts, you may need a new date when your originally chosen mediator is not available. Fortunately, we have a team of resident and independent mediators, which allows for another mediator to “tag in” if necessary, and the parties consent.
Finally, in this time of crisis, we are truly all in this together. As part of the extended TRC family, we appreciate your trust in our staff, personnel and facility to continue to meet your ever-changing mediation needs. Please consult and discuss the mediation options and alternatives with opposing counsel and contact our office with your decision on how best to proceed. The sooner we at TRC know your choice, the sooner we can make the requested accommodations.
Stay healthy and safe.
The Resolution Center