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Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution

In this issue:

Cuba: AL Mediators join ABA Delegation
Auburn University: Ombudsperson
Upcoming Training Opportunities
2014 Pro Bono Mediator Award
Family Mediation Program
Foreclosure Mediation Update
Crimestoppers Recognizes Pete Cobb
International Visitors

1st Quarter 2015 Newsletter

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Judy Keegan


The New Year...

At this time of year we are welcoming new members to the Rosters and saying thank you to those of you who are renewing.  The progress of ADR in Alabama has been in large part due to your continuing support of the Center and the work we do. Your membership adds to our stable foundation enabling us to write grants, keep up with everything that is new in the field, and network with other states’ ADR programs.  Thank you!

This past year we have administered a half million dollar Attorney General grant for foreclosure prevention/mortgage modification mediation and a grant from the Supreme Court of Alabama for the Parents are Forever Family Mediation Program. There are brief reports in this issue.  The foreclosure program is slated to end April 30.  However, the Bank of America settlement money will provide an additional grant opportunity when it arrives in the State.

If you have ever wondered what an Ombudsperson does, Kevin Coonrod, JD, Ombuds at Auburn University, fills us in through his short article.

Debra Leo, Cassandra Adams, and Quentin Brown were off to Cuba with the ABA just before the BIG CHANGE.  Debra gives us a great account in our first article.

Jimmy Walter, Esq., shareholder at Capell & Howard, PC of Montgomery, was awarded the Pro Bono Mediator award for 2014.

20 years of Alabama ADR updated for you in the Alabama Lawyer:

Thank you all for your Peacemaking!



Appellate Mediation Training

March 12, 2015
Filling up fast!
  To participate, contact Patsy
at or 334-269-0409.

The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Delegation goes to Cuba
Alabama Mediators:
The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution
Delegation goes to Cuba

Debra Leo, Esq. of Leo & Associates, formerly of the EEOC, supplied this synopsis of the trip she, Cassandra Adams and Quentin Brown took to Cuba in November.

A delegation from the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association visited Cuba from November 9 through November 14, 2014.  Of the 31 delegates, three were from Alabama – Debra Leo, Cassandra Adams and Quentin Brown. 

The purpose of the trip was to discuss dispute resolution processes in the Cuban justice system.  The delegates initially met with the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, a professional organization for lawyers, to discuss legal education in Cuba.  The universities are free, however, it is extremely competitive to get in.  Between 1982 and 1992 graduating law students were required to practice in a “bufete” for three years as a social service.  Now graduating students can provide their social services at a wide array of legal jobs.  Bufetes are collective law offices, first established by the Ministry of Justice after the private practice of law was abolished, and currently under the oversight of the National Organization of Bufetes Colectivos (ONBC). 

The delegation met with a local trade union, CTC, to discuss labor mediation.  They also met with the Cuban Society of Constitutional and Administrative Law to discussthe Cuban legal system, analysis of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba and the Cuban electoral system.  The Cuban Society of Civil and Family Law discussed the Civil Code and its institutions, experiences of Family Court, family mediation processes, and resolution of family disputes through the courts.  The delegates also met with criminal law specialists (judges and expert members of the Cuban Society of Penal Sciences) and had an exchange with litigant lawyers.

Professional judges in Cuba are elected for unlimited terms, serving until they are no longer capable or until removed by the electoral body. Persons seeking to become judges are required to pass an examination given by the Ministry of Justice. The requirements to be a judge include age, citizenship, and a requisite amount of legal experience that varies depending upon which court one is to serve on (10 years for Supreme Court; five years for Provincial Courts; two years for municipal courts.)

Membership in the Cuban Communist Party is not required to be a judge. Lay judges serve alongside professional judges in all levels of the judicial system. Candidates for the position of lay judge are nominated in workplace assemblies and are screened by the Ministry of Justice to ensure they meet the age and citizenship requirements. They are given training before their employment begins. Lay judges are elected for terms of five years, serving a maximum of 30 days per year (This is because lay judges continue their regular employment.)  On a whole, lay judges tend to represent the overall population in terms of race, gender, employment, and education.

It was not surprising to find that no formal dispute resolution process is institutionalized in Cuba’s justice system.  As in the United States, mediation was used primarily in the family court system.  The parties we met with were receptive to dispute resolution processes and interested in how they are used in the United States.  The Cuban court system did not appear to be as overburdened as our courts are, and the judicial process was not as time consuming as it is in the United States.  It was interesting that the majority of judges that met with the delegation are female.

The delegation also met with the wife of one of the Cuban 5.  It was quite interesting to hear her perspective, along with the attorney who represented Alan Gross.  We also met with a community project and discussed discrimination issues in Cuba.

I believe it was a general consensus of the delegates that Cuba was a lot more progressive than expected.  Renovations were ongoing throughout Havana.  Cubans appeared optimistic because of changes that had occurred in the past five years and were interested in the United States and our way of life.  It was surprising to find a great number of tourists in Cuba (excluding Americans).   The delegates had some free time to explore Havana and experience the private restaurants and clubs. 

With the restrictions between Cuba and the United States lifted, it will be interesting to see the revitalization continue.

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Auburn University: Office Of The Ombudsperson

Kevin Coonrod, JDKevin Coonrod, JD

The Office of the Ombudsperson assists students, faculty and staff in navigating through troubled situations at Auburn University.   As an independent, neutral, confidential and informal resource, Ombudsperson Kevin Coonrod provides conflict resolution services, guidance on university policies, and submits non-confidential and unbiased trend information to the University President that may assist in effecting systemic change.

The Auburn University Ombuds is an “organizational ombudsman”, subscribing to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.  As a dispute resolution practitioner, Coonrod mediates disputes and coaches individuals in methods for resolving conflict on their own.  Although the Ombuds’ work normally benefits individuals, the indirect benefit to the organization can be enormous. 

Resolving conflict before it has escalated beyond reason can save labor and financial resources by avoiding or resolving grievances and lawsuits on the disputants’ own terms.  Employees’ sense of enhanced well-being after working through an issue can result in greater productivity, fewer sick leave days taken and a renewed pride in the workplace team. 

Mr. Coonrod’s purpose as Ombudsperson is to help members of Auburn University help themselves, thereby creating a more harmonious, just and efficient environment for the entire community.  The services of the Ombudsperson are in addition to those offered by human resources and legal counsel, and are voluntary.  As an informal and neutral resource, the Office of the Ombudsperson has no authority to direct others’ actions, set policy, advocate for any party, adjudicate claims, participate in formal processes, or serve as an agent of notice to the University.  Moreover, the Ombuds does not offer legal advice or psychological counseling.

Rather, Coonrod helps the members of his constituency brainstorm ideas, discuss alternatives, gain or re-gain respect for each other and fashion informed resolutions to their troubles with their own initiative and creativity.  As University Ombudsperson, Coonrod assists University members build a stronger, more cohesive community.   

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Upcoming Training Opportunities

ABA Section of Dispute Resolution
Annual Spring Conference - Solutions in Seattle

April 15-18, 2015

The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference is an opportunity for attendees to learn new skills, network with colleagues and old friends, share experiences, and be immersed in the dispute resolution field. There will be CLE programs and networking programs on every imaginable topic in the field: family issues, employment and labor, practice development and marketing, ethics, corporate and commercial, and health care ADR.

Additional Information:

Please see the Conference Programming Home for more information on sessions and speakers.

List Price: $615.00

  • ABA Member Price: $550.00
  • Sponsor Member Price: $475.00


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9th Annual
ABA Advanced Training Arbitration Institute
June 12-13, 2015

American Bar Association
321 N Clark St Fl 14 Chicago, IL 60654-7598

This two day training will be presented by a panel of nationally recognized arbitrators and arbitration advocates.  Let the panel of experts walk you through the arbitration process from start to finish. This limited capacity training will provide you with a unique learning environment and industry contacts you will sustain throughout your career.

Friday Sessions

  • Overview -- Sources of Arbitral Authority and Administered Programs
  • The Role of the Arbitrator and the Disclosure Requirement
  • Economical and Efficient Arbitration
  • Recent Developments in International Arbitration - Lunch
  • Managing Discovery
  • Managing the Parties and Their Lawyers
  • Preparing for the Hearing

Saturday Sessions

  • Hearing and Managing the Evidence
  • An Approach to Award Writing
  • Award Essentials and Formats
  • Developing a Personal Career Plan - Lunch
  • Award Writing Practicum
  • Interim Awards and Partial Final Awards
  • Remedies
  • Post-Award Process

Who Should Attend?

  • Those planning a career move to arbitration
  • Litigators wanting to better utilize arbitration and gain insights into how arbitrators approach their task
  • Experienced arbitrators wanting to better understand recent developments and trends in arbitration
  • In-house counsel, including those who manage disputes, interested in learning the nuts and bolts of arbitration

Why Should You Attend?

  • Access new ideas in arbitration
  • Acquire innovative strategies to build and market your practice
  • Advance your own skills, knowledge and practice techniques
  • Discuss current trends and practices

Connect with nationally recognized arbitration experts and develop new business contacts Enhance your credibility as a thought leader in the industry

  • List Price: $1,250.00
  • ABA Member Price: $1,170.00
  • Sponsor Member Price: $1,100.00

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More Upcoming Training Opportunities


AAA - Arbitrating In A Digital World:  Fair and Expeditious Management
of Electronic Discovery

Allison Skinner, Esq. of Skinner Neutral Services, Birmingham is providing this training for AAA arbitrators around the country in 2015. For more information check with AAA Atlanta at 800-925-0155.

In State Upcoming Training/CLEs

General/Civil Mediation – 20-Hour CLE Seminar
Birmingham, March 12-14, 2015
Birmingham, June 11-13, 2015
Birmingham, September 10-12, 2015
Birmingham, December 3-5, 2015

Divorce/Family Mediation – 40-Hour CLE Seminar
Birmingham, February 6-10, 2015
Birmingham, August 20-24, 2015
November 13-17, 2015

Domestic Violence in Mediation – 14-Hour CLE Seminar
Birmingham, February 26-27, 2015
Birmingham, October 19-20, 2015

Advanced Mediation – 6 Hour CLE Seminar
To be announced

For more information on the above courses:  Troy Smith, Mediation Media

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2014 Pro Bono Mediator Award

James N. Walter, Jr. of Montgomery won the Pro Bono Mediator Award at the Alabama State Bar’s Annual Meeting in Sandestin.  The Volunteer Lawyers Program, headed by Linda Lund, selects the winner from a list of mediators who conducted mediations at no cost or reduced cost to the parties.  The list is compiled by the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution from annual surveys provided by mediators on the Alabama State Court Mediator Roster.

Jimmy is a shareholder with Capell & Howard, P.C. in Montgomery, where he is the co-chair of the firm's Litigation Department. His practice concentrates on commercial litigation, mediation and arbitration. He is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and the University of Alabama  School of Law. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and Alabama Super Lawyers in the specialties of commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution.

Thanks, Jimmy!

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Parents Are Forever Family Mediation Program

Family Mediation Brochure - Learn more.This program, funded through a grant from the Supreme Court of Alabama, was established to help families with children complete a parenting plan for raising their children (and financial as well) to present to the judge during custody hearing or when divorcing.  A judge orders the case, and the mediator takes it from there.  Combined family income must be less than $85,000 [changed to $75,000 in late 2015], which covers middle income families with children as well as lower income.  Mediator, who must be on the Roster and have had the 40 hours of family mediation training, accepts a flat hourly rate and must also give some pro bono time.

In Phase 1 we had 20 mediations with 13 full agreements, 3 partial agreements and 4 with no agreements.  Mediators gave 40.1 hours of pro bono time.

In Phase 2 we had 22 cases with 13 full agreements, 3 partial agreements, 4 with no agreements, and one carried into Phase 3.  Mediators gave 25.35 hours of pro bono time.

In Phase 3 we have 38 cases with 15 mediated through 12/31/14.  There were 10 agreements, 2 with partial agreements and 3 with no agreement.

This program is beginning to develop in many Alabama counties thanks to judges and mediators. 

Learn more on our website at

If you would like information, please contact the Center.

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Foreclosure Mediation Update

Since we began mediating nine months ago in May of 2014, we have had 176 cases come into this program started with a grant from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. 

At the end of January we had mediated or facilitated 84 cases and paid mediators over $103,000.  This program will end on April 31.  We are currently not adding any new cases but have plans to submit another grant shortly.   

More specific statistics will be available at the completion of the program.

Foreclosure Mediators:  Cathy Mansfield from CFPB sent us this link to information on foreclosure and debt cancellation:


This partnership with United Way Central and River Region will continue as we pursue additional grant money.  Stay tuned.

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Crimestoppers Annual Awards Luncheon
January 21, 2015

Pete Cobb, Esq., Chair, Alabama Supreme Court Commission on Dispute Resolution accepts thanks!

CrimeStoppers’ Peer Mediation Program
was a 2014 grantee of the Commission,
and Pete Cobb, Esq. of Balch & Bingham, LLP, Montgomery,
attended the luncheon and
accepted thanks for Commission support.

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U. S. Department Of State, Bureau Of Educational And Cultural Affairs, International Visitors Leadership Program

U. S. Department Of State, Bureau Of Educational And Cultural Affairs, International Visitors Leadership Program

Last fall the Center entertained a group of women leaders under the Women Leaders: Promoting Peace & Security, A Multi-Regional Project

Attendees were from Azerbaijan, Burma, Cyprus, Ghana Hungary and Kenya.  I do not need to tell you that we always learn new things during these interesting meetings!


“Both as a lawyer and now as a judge, I am an enthusiastic proponent of mediation.  It is a wonderful tool that empowers and motivates parties to realistically evaluate their respective cases and to take every reasonable step to resolve their disputes.”
  ~  Honorable Chris Comer, Circuit Judge, Huntsville




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Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution
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