Did you have a problem retaining your impartiality while trying to level the playing field prior to negotiations?


Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Have you ever found yourself in a position where it was difficult to maintain a neutral stance?

Answer:
I've never had a problem with impartiality. I don't believe we're neutral because I think we have a responsibility related to the civil rights that people have. We don't get into any problem with what we're basically attempting to do, to use our process so people's civil rights are being protected. We never really take any position. The law has been allegedly violated. Discrimination has taken place or is alleged but it's not up to us to make a finding of discrimination. So it frees us from making those type of judgments. The process we provide is neutral. What we provide is neutral in that sense, but it's within a framework of civil rights laws.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever run into any problems with people feeling that you weren't being objective, that you were taking the side of the low-power group?

Answer:
Immediately. "You're Mexican, well, we know whose side you're on." With the community folks also, "You're Department of Justice? Well... We don't expect much." And with the police, "You're with the community? Oh. For a minute I thought you were one of us."




Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
In these two cases, or in other cases, did you ever have a problem deciding how far you could go helping one party and still be acting objectively? Was this a fine line you had trouble discerning?

Answer:
Maybe I'm just fairly good at rationalizing my actions. My rationalization is that I'm trying to facilitate reaching a resolution of a whole bunch of problems. Sometimes a whole bunch of them, sometimes just one or two main ones. You can justify all kinds of things if neither party is being pushed into something that is inappropriate or you're substituting your judgment. I would say there probably are some fine lines there. Let's say maybe the weaker party gets too dependent or gets very dependent or would be willing to take a strong recommendation from a mediator as to what their course of action ought to be. I think that gets into areas that are questionable, where good ethical professional practice of a mediator should give pause. It's not always easy to do or answer where that line is.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But I have had times when people say, "Well, why do you write these things so negatively." Well, it is a complaint. The issues are what we don't have, what services are needed and how we are denied this and whatever. I've heard people say, "They're so negative. Can you make them more neutral." So I've kind of looked at that. Because here we are, going to the table and it sounds like we're brokering, even in our agenda, for the complainant, because of the way I've framed the complaints. So, I've reviewed this matter after some questions by the non-complainant party as to can these issues be construed as statements that make overtures of position and are weighted in a way that they almost become advocacy positions. As a mediator, it's incumbent on us to try and take out some of the positioning and present the issues in a neutral and balanced way. So I do alter some of the issues at times now, but we didn't do that then because there didn't seem to be any need to because the parties didn't raise any concerns.





Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Have you ever felt so strongly about an issue or situation that you felt you couldn't be impartial?

Answer:
No, I tend to be a very reflective person. I tend to be able to distance myself from my personal feelings and the issues, so far in my career. I know there's certain issues like excessive use of force that I have some biases opinions about. I certainly do have biases and very strong convictions about what I feel to be repeated misjudgments. You get to a point where you feel something more significant has to be done. I'm constantly talking to CRS people about what are some of these other mechanisms. I do feel a sense of emotionalism, but I don't let that cloud what I'm doing with mediation. Just because I have my biases and my emotional feelings that I should not lay my feelings on anybody else. You get my drift? I mean I do have very strong emotions about some issues of our school systems and what they don't give in terms of equity or quality education and yet I can't lay my judgments on the parties and their disputes in mediation. I don't think my objectivity has been compromised so far.







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