Nineteen Court Mediators Sworn In to Revitalize Belize’s ADR Committee

Nineteen Court Mediators Sworn In to Revitalize Belize’s ADR Committee

Nineteen court mediators were sworn in this morning in two separate ceremonies as part of a commitment made by Chief Justice Louis Esther Blenman in late April.  After having had a long non-functioning period, the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee (NADRC) has been resuscitated with a fresh cohort of stakeholders involved in the areas of education, law, media, management, religion, and medicine.  The swearing in ceremony took place as the first official step in re-energizing what was once known as the National Mediation Committee.  Senator Ashley Rocke is among those sworn in at the Belize High Court.

Ashley Rocke, Court Mediator: “Well, the University of the West Indies offers mediation training using people like Councillor Julie Ann  Bradley she had been our teacher. We did the basic and then we went on to do the advanced training. After that, we were given the privilege to join ADRAB which is when we were there was coordinated by Miss Consuelo Godfrey. Recently we’ve had a new president added to our cadre of administrators and so the process has been that.”

Reporter: How has your experience been so far? 

Ashley Rocke, Court Mediator: “My experience has been that because we never had the kind of thing that was talked about by the the Chief Justice this morning, we were basically stagnant for a while. But I was very impressed, very, you know, I am very hopeful that when it comes around to what the Chief Justice said is 80% of the litigations in the court are taken up by them. We hope that we will really make up that party that does the 20% that is remaining.”

Former Director of the Youth Apprenticeship Program, Dianne Finnegan, was also on the roster of mediators for the Senior Courts.  Finnegan noted that the mandate presented to them is nothing new for her as she has been known to work and mediate with vulnerable groups, gang members and other sectors of society.

Dianne Finnegan, Court Mediator: “This is something that I’ve been doing all along when I was working with the gangs. You know my work on a daily basis with young people, empowering, motivating young people going into schools and just sort of encouraging young people on a whole on how to journey through this challenging life and doing it in a way that there is no division, no disunity among themselves but understanding each other as human beings. It’s truly an honor because our past president Ms.Consuelo Godfrey there were times when the journey was so empty, so quiet and we who were the recent graduates we sort of got frustrated long the process feeling as if though nothing is going to happen and she worked very hard along with our professor Ms.Bradley to make today possible because behind the scenes they were working with the Chief Justice and just daily giving us that kind of encouragement and motivation that we must continue to study, we must continue to do our practical from where we are at so that this day today we are prepared.”

In addition to aiding in the backlog of court cases, the mediators would assist in providing swifter resolutions to disputes, saving costs of litigation, giving litigants the power to settle their disputes, preserving relationships.  Consuelo Godfrey, the past president of the committee was present this morning, and expressed gratitude for the resuscitation of the group.  She explained that with this committee now active it could and would relieve the backlog of cases at the court.

Consuela Godfrey, Past President, NADRC: “I’m really pleased and grateful to Chief Justice Blendman and the three justices that sit on the Commission, Justice Nanton, Justice Arana and Justice Alexander, for their hard work and dedication in getting this mediation sworn in ceremony possible today. We do plan to swear in another cohort of mediators after the summer of this year, but the important thing to remember is that mediation is such an important process in the judicial system. It’s really about parties coming together that can find a common ground to perhaps come to an agreement to something that they may have a conflict in. One of the things that we know that happen in the court system is that there’s a lot of backlog of civil cases. And so when a judge makes a decision for a civil matter to be referred to mediation then the mediators are the ones that would take a case, litigants are involved, also known as attorneys, and before it can go to litigation it should go through mediation. So the success rate of our mediators in the system is very important. And it’s important to the fact that parties need to understand that they can be heard in mediation. You see, when you go to court, when you go through a litigation process your attorneys speak on your behalf. But in the mediation process, the parties get a chance to speak. The parties get a chance to say how they feel or how they see their own side of the conflict. And so a mediator’s role is really one of facilitation and so empathy and having good training, of course, offered by Mrs. Julianne Ellis Bradley. She was a professor from UWI that offers this training is so vital. So in order for them to be processed as a mediator you must do the mediation training, the advanced training, and then of course have some practice, right? So one of the things we want to incorporate moving forward is to have new mediators observe mediation cases so that they can build their capacity and their skill.”

The newly formed National Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee (NADRC) is co-chaired by Justice of Appeal Michelle Arana; Justice Martha Alexander, and Justice Candace Nanton.  The other mediators are Kimberly Wallace, Laura Alvarado, Deshawn Torres, Dale Cayetano, Peter Ferrera, Shanti Morrison, Lynese Flowers, Erica Aguilar, Marion Finnegan, Maria Tucker, Hyacinth Cuellar, Adolph Lucas, Annylyn Apolonio, Tricia Collins, Carnelie Fritz, Earl Jones, Diana Pook, Mirza Ariola, Shaeleen Castillo, and Franklin Martinez.

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