Recap of MED/ARB Seminar

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By William L. Weber, Jr.
Executive Director of Professional
Resolution Experts of Michigan

The Professional Resolution Experts of Michigan (PREMi) held a seminar on the subject of MED/ARB at Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills campus, on January 24, 2013. PREMi is an organization of experienced litigators who have been trained in mediation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

A sizeable crowd attended, including lawyers who specialize in the field of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) and Cooley students. The program was approved by the Supreme Court Administrative Office (SCAO), and attendees received eight hours of educational credit pursuant to court rules.

Lawyers who are members of PREMi made the presentation. Cooley law students also attended free of charge and provided interesting input throughout the program. Dean John Nussbaumer remarked “the students were the real beneficiaries of this program because they had the opportunity to exchange information with the experienced lawyers of PREMi.”

As an introduction to the program, new trends in Alternative Dispute Resolution were explained. Antoinette Rahem described the new standard of conduct for mediators. Ms. Rahem had been a task force member appointed by SCAO during the development of the new standards of conduct and was, among others, responsible for the new standards. The standards encompass the requirements that mediators must follow when conducting a mediation.

Another new trend dealt with the recent passage in Michigan of the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act. William Weber, the Executive Director of PREMi, was chair of the ADR section responsible for legislative matters. Mr. Weber described the history of this legislation, and he was followed by Martin Weisman, who set forth the substantive changes to the Arbitration Law, which will become effective July 1, 2013.

The last subject of the “new trends” portion of the program was presented by Jerome Rock and dealt with Michigan’s new Business Court which became effective January 1, 2013. Michigan becomes the twenty-sixth state to adopt the Business Court concept. The Business Court is a special docket within the Circuit Court system. Any Circuit Court in the state can institute a Business Court, provided that there are at least three judges in that circuit. The Business Court has jurisdiction over business and commercial disputes which are defined in the legislation.

The lead trainer for the MED/ARB seminar was Martin Weisman. Mr. Weisman is considered the most experienced MED/ARB specialist in the State of Michigan. The parties to a MED/ARB process agree up front that if the dispute is not resolved by mediation, the matter will be turned over to the same neutral, who now becomes an arbitrator.

One of the intriguing features of the program dealt with the role-play of a case where MED/ARB was utilized. Both the Cooley students and the lawyers took on roles to resolve a case using the MED/ARB process. Six different tables worked towards a resolution.

The featured luncheon speaker was Doug Van Epps, Director of the Office of Dispute Resolution, Supreme Court Administrative Office. Mr. Van Epps gave the attendees a brief review of court rules and other activities currently being handled by his office.

Gene Esshaki and Paul Monicatti presented invigorating issues of ethics and confidentiality that often accompany the MED/ARB process. Retired Judge William Caprathe, formerly Chief Judge Bay City Circuit Court, provided a judicial perspective of MED/ARB. Laura Athens presented a wrap-up of the program and a panel of PREMi presenters engaged in a spirited exchange of legal issues.

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