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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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