Why Would a Judge Become a Mediator?

Mary Fitzgerald Mary Fitzgerald
November 21, 2019

Upon retiring from the bench less than a year ago, I was asked by many attorneys if I intended to mediate cases. It seems that it is not unusual for judges to move into the field of civil mediation. In point of fact, the National Judicial College in Reno, NV offers a course program on Civil Mediation that is tailored for judges.

I did not immediately decide to pursue a mediation practice upon retirement. Having observed many of my peers move into the field, I was not convinced that all judges make good mediators any more than all lawyers make good mediators. I also wanted to take some time to adjust to retirement.

Before I went on the bench as a District Judge, I was a Court Referee and frequently mediated family law cases. I trained with a very well-known mediator, Robert Benjamin, who currently runs Mediation and Conflict Management Services in Southern California. I know mediation and understand negotiation and dispute resolution.

When I received a call from Ted Sherwood asking if I would be interested in coming to Accord Mediation & Arbitration, I was flattered. Accord’s mediators, Ted Sherwood, John McCormick, and Hugh Robert are Fellows in the American College of Trial Lawyers. They are AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and are recognized by Super Lawyers. Ted is a member in the National Association of Distinguished Neutrals.

Why might Accord ask me to join with them and why might someone want to use me as a mediator?

As a retired judge with 15 years of experience on the bench as a Referee and a District Court Judge, I believe the parties will have the perception, and I hope the reality, that I will be fair and impartial to both sides. Most mediators come from either the plaintiff’s bar or the defense bar, and there may be a perception that they will have a bias based on their practice. Retired judges do not generally have those biases.

I have presided over more than a hundred jury trials and numerous bench trials during my career. I have learned to be a good listener. I am trained to wait to make up my mind until I have heard both sides. Sometimes cases have difficult legal issues or questions about how a certain fact, or a certain piece of evidence will likely be perceived by a jury. I spent 12 years observing juries and jurors. My experience has provided me with a unique insight on jurors. I am well acquainted with the appellant courts, their process, and how cases are considered on appeal.

Since I joined Accord Mediation & Arbitration, I have been training with Ted Sherwood. Ted has mediated more than 800 cases in his career as a mediator. Ted teaches a platform that encourages a deep dive into the facts of a case and a candid discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of a case.

As a jurist, I had a reputation of being fair to both sides, efficient, and getting the job done. I plan to have the same reputation as a mediator. Give me a call.

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