By: Elodie A. Meuser, The Mediation Option
Dave Stafford recently wrote an article for The Indiana Lawyer about a case concerning a deaf man who was denied an interpreter for mediation who is now suing Indiana state courts. Did you miss it? Check it out here.
I admit that I am no expert when it comes to the Americans With Disabilities Act, so I cannot say for certain whether Mr. King should win his case. My gut reaction is that the courts should indeed provide Mr. King and other disabled persons reasonable accommodations to participate in a court-sponsored mediation program. Why should he not be allowed to participate due to his disability?
However, some argue that his inability to participate is not due to his disability, but rather that it is due to his economic situation. If he can provide his own interpreter, then he most certainly can participate in the mediation. Mr. King’s argument is that he cannot afford to provide his own interpreter (although he actually did, according to the article) and that he should be provided an interpreter at no cost to him.
There are many others who, because of their economic situation, cannot afford mediation either. As such, some of them are offered court-sponsored Modest Means Mediation, as Mr. King was. But even then, some of those participants claim that they still cannot afford the associated fees. In fact, two participants have failed to pay me the co-payments they were ordered to pay by the Court after Modest Means mediation.
And what about those who do not qualify for Modest Means but still find it nearly impossible to pay their share of a mediator’s hourly rate without skipping a meal or two? They may very well have their mediation requirement waived for “good cause.” Is Mr. King’s inability to provide an interpreter for himself “good cause” to waive mediation?
So who should pay? The disabled participant? The Court, or in other words, the taxpayers? Or should the filing fee in every case be increased to fund the additional cost of running the Modest Means program if the program is ordered to pay? Should mediation be waived in these types of cases? Check out Stafford's article and then consider these questions for yourself. They are the questions facing mediators not only in Indiana but across the country.
This post was written by Elodie A. Meuser of The Mediation Option. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Family Law Section page, please email Mary Kay Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.