Tuesday, November 8, 2016
County Bar to Phase Out Civic Mediation Project
Action Taken as Cost-Cutting Measure
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Trustees of the Los Angeles County Bar Association have decided to phase out the group’s Civil Mediation Project.
In a press release, dated Friday and posted on the association’s website, LACBA said the project has served more than 100,000 people in its 38 years and would be phased out by June 30, which is the end of LACBA’s fiscal year. The release quoted President Margaret Stevens as saying the project’s elimination was a necessary cost-cutting measure.
“LACBA’s Board of Trustees made the very difficult decision to wind down the Civic Mediation Project because the Project was unable to develop ongoing financial support to sustain its operations,” she said. “This was not an easy decision. It came only after many years of unsuccessful efforts to identify appropriate funding resources.”
Dispute Resolution Services
LACBA said the project was founded in 1978 as Dispute Resolution Services in response to recommendations of the National Conference on the Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice, otherwise known as the Roscoe Pound Conference.
“The Civic Mediation Project was one of only three organizations in the country that focused exclusively on conflict resolution, which was an entirely new concept at the time. Today, many organizations offer this type of alternative to litigation. We are proud of the Project’s contributions, especially its impact on student participants.” Since it was founded 38 years ago, more than 100,000 people have utilized the project’s services, Stevens said.
‘A Small Start’
John Carson, chair of the Council of Sections, which made LACBA’s financial woes a major part of its “reform” campaign that won a majority of the board seats at stake this year, said the association’s pro bono projects “are on track to lose $1.4 million this year.” Terminating the Civic Mediation project will save $429,000 next year, Carson said, and “indicates a growing awareness that there’s a fiscal problem but…is only a small start.”
Carson, who is also a former LACBA president, noted that the association is headed toward losing about three quarters of a million dollars this year,” after having lost $2.5 million over the past five years.
LACBA President-Elect Michael Meyer, who led the Council of Sections-backed slate, said he was unhappy that a “great project” was being eliminated, but that the group’s economics made it necessary. He added that the board will “take a fresh look at everything” when it comes to future cuts.
The Civic Mediation Project currently provides “community mediation” services for neighborhood and small claims disputes in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Long Beach; a peer mediation program for students at John Adams and Lincoln Middle Schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and Pacoima’s Maclay Middle School Academy of Social Justice in the Los Angeles Unified School District; conflict resolution training, and day-of-hearing mediation services for unlawful detainer matters in Long Beach, LACBA said.
The association added that it had “reached out to the Civic Mediation Project’s community stakeholders to convey this news in order to provide them with an opportunity to search for other organizations that may be able to provide similar services.”
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company