September 2, 2011
McGeorge's nascent Mediation Clinic, now only in its second year of operation, is already making an impact on federal court caseloads.
The clinic figured prominently in an individual award from the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit to Sujean Park, the director of the alternative dispute resolution and pro bono programs for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California.
Two years ago, Dorothy Landsberg, the director of McGeorge's Clinical Programs, went to a Ninth Circuit conference and learned there were a large number of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 cases clogging up federal district courts. She and Park created the Mediation Clinic to allow McGeorge students to conduct settlement conferences between prisoners proceeding pro se with actions.
Four students, Jaime Williams, '11 Alexander Zeesman, '11, and Sunny Stevenson and Amanda Brown, both of whom will graduate in December, enrolled in the first clinic. Under the direction of Professor Michael Colatrella and Landsberg, they trained for their roles in actual mediations.
The students staffed the clinic, collected information about each case, prepared pre-conference memoranda and participated as co-mediators. "The students handled nine mediations, three of which resulted in successful outcomes," Landsberg said. "So those were three cases that didn't have to go to trial, which amounts to a significant savings in court time and money."
In mid-July, Park was chosen by the circuit's Judicial Council, the governing body of federal courts in nine Western states and two Pacific island jurisdictions, to receive the 2011 Robert F. Peckham Award for excellence in alternative resolution, in part because of her work with the students.
"The students found it rewarding and exciting," said Landsberg. "They got to work first-hand with Sujean, federal magistrate judges, and prisoners. It was real-world experience that jumps out on their resumes."
This year, there are five students in the year-long Mediation Clinic. The clinic has an eight-person limit and supervisors hope to grow it out to that number in the coming years.