While the petition submission is a hard act to follow, there is other news to report. On May 6, the 2005 Legislative Session came to a close (on time). It was a relatively quiet year for ADR Legislation. Given the significant changes to confidentiality in the 2004 session (Sections 44.401 - 406, Florida Statutes), I am sure that is welcome news to most mediators.
The most significant changes for court-connected neutrals came as part of HB1935 An Act Relating to the State Judicial System. (More commonly know as “The 2005 Revision 7 Glitch Bill”) http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2005/House/bills/billtext/pdf/h193505er.pdf
This 117 page bill contains the following revisions to chapter 44 (pages 73 – 75)
44.102 Court-ordered mediation. --
(4) The chief judge of each judicial circuit shall maintain a list of mediators who have been certified by the Supreme Court and who have registered for appointment in that circuit.
(a) Whenever possible, qualified individuals who have volunteered their time to serve as mediators shall be appointed. If a mediation program is funded pursuant to s. 44.108, volunteer mediators shall be entitled to reimbursement pursuant to s. 112.061 for all actual expenses necessitated by service as a mediator.
(b) Non volunteer mediators shall be compensated according to rules adopted by the Supreme Court. If a mediation program is funded pursuant to s. 44.108, a mediator may be compensated by the county or by the parties.
When a party has been declared indigent or insolvent, that party’s pro rata share of a mediator’s compensation shall be paid by the county at the rate set by administrative order of the chief judge of the circuit.
44.103 Court-ordered, nonbinding arbitration. –
(3) Arbitrators shall be selected and compensated in accordance with rules adopted by the Supreme Court. Arbitrators shall be compensated by the parties, or, upon a finding by the court that a party is indigent, an arbitrator may be partially or fully compensated from state funds according to the party’s present ability to pay. At no time may an arbitrator charge more than $1,500 per diem, unless the parties agree otherwise. Prior to approving the use of state funds to reimburse an arbitrator, the court must ensure that the party reimburses the portion of the total cost that the party is immediately able to pay and that the party has agreed to a payment plan established by the clerk of the court that will fully reimburse the state for the balance of all state costs for both the arbitrator and any costs of administering the payment plan and any collection efforts that may be necessary in the future. Whenever possible, qualified individuals who have volunteered their time to serve as arbitrators shall be appointed. If an arbitration program is funded pursuant to s. 44.108, volunteer arbitrators shall be entitled to be reimbursed pursuant to s. 112.061 for all actual expenses necessitated by service as an arbitrator.
44.108 Funding of mediation and arbitration. --
(1) Mediation and arbitration should be accessible to all parties regardless of financial status. A filing fee of $1 is levied on all proceedings in the circuit or county courts to fund mediation and arbitration services which are the responsibility of the Supreme Court pursuant to the provisions of s. 44.106. The clerk of the court shall forward the moneys collected to the Department of Revenue for deposit in the state courts’ Mediation and Arbitration Trust Fund.
(2) When court-ordered mediation services are provided by a circuit court’s mediation program, the following fees, unless otherwise established in the General Appropriations Act, shall be collected by the clerk of court:
(a) Eighty dollars per person per scheduled session in family mediation when the parties’ combined income is greater than $50,000, but less than $100,000 per year;
(b) Forty dollars per person per scheduled session in family mediation when the parties’ combined income is less than $50,000; or
(c) Forty dollars per person per scheduled session in county court cases.
No mediation fees shall be assessed under this subsection in residential eviction cases, against a party found to be indigent, or for any small claims action. Fees collected by the clerk of court pursuant to this section shall be remitted to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the state courts’ Mediation and Arbitration Trust Fund to fund court-ordered mediation. The clerk of court may deduct $1 per fee assessment for processing this fee. The clerk of the court shall submit to the chief judge of the circuit, no later than 30 days after the end of the quarter, a report specifying the amount of funds collected under this section during each quarter of the fiscal year.
Other bills which passed both houses that may be of interest for family mediators, include:
SB 348, Relating to Family Court Efficiency http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Year=2005&billnum=348
HB 1283 Relating to Child Support http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Year=2005&billnum=1283
General ADR Bills of Interest:
HB 565 Relating to Mobile Homes [contains new provisions relating to mediation of these disputes]
SB 1312 Relating to Recreational Vehicles [includes provisions related to RV mediation and arbitration]
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE FOLLOWING UPCOMING EVENTS
June 10: Oral Argument for SC04-2482 In Re: Report of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules and Policy Committee on Senior Judges as Mediators
August 25 - 27: Dispute Resolution Center 14th Annual Conference
We hope you enjoy our new on-line newsletter. Our plan is to send every other newsletter via regular mail (January and July) and the alternating ones (April and October), will be found on-line. Join me in congratulating and thanking Glenda Larry for her work as on-line editor. There always are lots of glitches and issues to work through the first time one does anything – this process was no different. We are excited that we will be able to provide you with our newsletter in alternative formats.
Lots more news ahead – I hope to see you in August, Sharon