Martha Stewart in Mediation

Sources have reported that Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia have been ordered to participate in mediation after three weeks of court testimonies.

Court-ordered mediation is becoming more and more common in high-profile disputes. A perfect storm of conditions helps to make mediation more common in our daily lives.

  1. The courts are overwhelmed and backlogged.
  2. Most disputes settle out of court anyway.
  3. Many disputes originate out of hurt feelings, which are cases that most judges have no interest in hearing about.

In 2012, Colorado District Court reported 288,877 new cases. They have seen an increase of 70 percent over the last 10 years. With only 176 judges you can imagine that things are going to get backlogged. Your day in court can be months or years away. Other states are reporting increased numbers also.

This backlog of cases means that more disputants are seeking to settle outside of court rather than wait in line for their day (or few minutes) in court. Waiting to see the judge means your losing time and money.

Finally, emotions, hurt feelings and egos often initiate the dispute in the first place. In the case of Martha Stewart, CBS News reported that Macy’s CEO Lundgren testified that Martha Stewart called to notify him of the deal with J.C. Penney and he was so shocked that he hung up on her for not discussing with him in advance. Judges rarely care about how the other person’s actions made you feel. Judges must review the law and whether your case fits precedence set by other legal decisions.

My belief is that as soon as the judge realized that the problem started due to a communication break down over hurt feelings, he stopped the case to order mediation.

We see this all the time in business disputes. A simple breakdown in communication leads to a huge, painful dispute. When people seek out mediation immediately after the initial breakdown occurs they often see results that maintain relationships, save money on attorneys’ fees, reduce the time spent dealing with the conflict and often find better solutions that benefit everyone.

Don’t waste time avoiding the conversations, perfecting your legal argument and waiting on a judge to order you to mediation. Contact us early.