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Supreme Court affirms what is said in mediation, stays in mediation

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A husband will not be able to offer as evidence comments made during a mediated settlement conference with his ex-wife, the Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed.  

In the matter of Dennis Jack Horner v. Marcia (Horner) Carter, No. 34S02-1210-DR-582, the Indiana Supreme Court rebuked the Indiana Court of Appeals conclusion that the confidentiality of mediation can be broken.  

Dennis Horner had wanted to provide testimony of what he said at the mediation as extrinsic evidence that a mistake had been made in the final settlement agreement. The trial court excluded the discussions. While the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of relief, it ruled the trial court’s exclusion of the husband’s testimony was in error.

The COA’s findings surprised attorneys and mediators who noted caselaw supports the practice that everything said in mediation is confidential.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

In a footnote, the Supreme Court noted the COA based its decision on a different approach presented in the Uniform Mediation Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. UMA would permit disclosure and discovery of conduct and statements made during mediation in certain circumstances.

However, the Supreme Court pointed out Indiana has not adopted the UMA rules. Instead, Indiana adheres to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Rule 2.11 which holds that evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations or mediation is not admissible except when offered for a purpose other than to prove liability for or invalidity of the claim or its amount.

“The Court of Appeals concluded that the husband’s statements during the mediation could be admitted as extrinsic evidence to aid in the construction of an ambiguous agreement,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court. “Indiana judicial policy strongly urges the amicable resolution of disputes and thus embraces a robust policy of confidentiality of conduct and statements made during negotiation and mediation. The benefits of compromise settlement agreements outweigh the risks that such policy may on occasion impede access to otherwise admissible evidence on an issue.”



 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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