Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Inaugural Dispute Resolution Conference Debuts in Columbus

Four hundred mediators, lawyers, and judges gathered in Columbus this week to participate in the Ohio Supreme Court’s first-ever statewide Dispute Resolution Conference.

“Mediation is used in nearly every civil case type in every jurisdiction,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor told attendees. “Ohio’s courts offer more dispute resolution options than ever before.”

Supreme Court Administrative Director Michael Buenger encouraged listeners to share new ideas and help people resolve human conflict in ways that are meaningful, fair, and sustainable to them.

“We need to look to the future, to how the needs of the next generation of citizens, very comfortable in this virtual world, will be met,” Buenger said.

“I do not mean to suggest that the world of virtual every-things are good or healthy.  There is a crying need for human connectedness beyond the bits and the bytes of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. But this is the reality we face.”

The conference featured 100 speakers and  40 breakout sessions in 10 conference rooms, including one involving Franklin County’s new online dispute system and a civil stalking pilot mediation project going on in 12 Ohio counties. The conference was held at the Ohio Union on the campus of Ohio State University.

The speakers ranged from federal judges to law professors from all over the country.

Chief Justice O’Connor, who appeared via a video address, noted that mediation remains “the most prevalent of dispute resolution options,” but that the applications of dispute resolution have grown.

The keynote speaker, former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, was the court-appointed mediator in the legal settlement between the National Football League and 4,500 retired players over alleged concussion-related brain injuries.

The cases were so complex the negotiations went back and forth for months, Phillips said. Yet, dispute resolution can still be an efficient alternative.

“There’s always going to be a certain percentage of cases that can’t be resolved online,” Phillips said. “They involve difficult issues where human interaction is involved and the question is, What kind of process do you design for that?”

“I think this conference is fantastic,” mediation lawyer Carrie Connelly said between sessions. “I think the Ohio Supreme Court has done a fabulous job in getting speakers and creating awareness.”

The crowd also saw a documentary on the history of dispute resolution, including words from the late Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer on how he valued mediation.

Retired mediation consultant Frank Motz remembered those words clearly.

Chief Justice Moyer, Motz said, wanted those entering a courthouse for a lawsuit to see not only a courtroom and judge’s office, but a mediation room and a mediator’s office.

“It would communicate to them right from the start of the case, ‘I don’t have to go to trial,’” Motz said. “There’s also an option to sit down with the other side and explore settlement.”