NM Supreme Court Leads Statewide ADR Initiative

NM Supreme CourtWhen this fall’s mediation training begins on Oct. 21 at the University of New Mexico School of Law, two students will be representing the New Mexico court system as part of a new effort to strengthen alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs across the state. One of those students will be Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez (`81).

Chavez’s motivation will be to learn more about ADR in his role as chair of the newly formed Statewide Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission. Also on the commission are John Feldman (`89), assistant dean for Career Services, and Darcy Bushnell (`89), ombudsman program director at the Utton Transboundary Resources Center. Feldman represents the School of Law on the commission and was appointed for his career-long involvement in ADR and mediation. He has taught as an adjunct professor in the UNM School of Law’s mediation program since the 1990s.

The commission was created in early August by order of the New Mexico Supreme Court, following the release of a report commissioned by the court to assess the state’s ADR programs. The National Center for State Courts prepared the report.

“In a severely underfunded judiciary, where 174 judges in our magistrate, metropolitan and district courts are required to adjudicate approximately 460,000 cases a year, we have to explore ways to make us more efficient and the system of justice less expensive,” said Chavez. “ADR is an answer, if done correctly.”

The commission’s first task will be to assess ADR programs across New Mexico and determine what needs to be done to improve the programs and educate the public about the availability of those programs.

“The commission will help courts implement a more aggressive court-annexed ADR system throughout the state with guidelines, standards and best practices,” said Chavez. “With a standing ADR commission, we will be able to measure the utility, efficiency and efficacy of ADR programs throughout the state and maximize the limited resources we have.”

Included in this new initiative are scholarships to cover tuition for two judges or court staff in each UNM mediation course going forward. The Judicial Education Center (JEC) at the School of Law’s Institute for Public Law is funding the scholarships plus travel for out-of-town attendees.

“The court-appointed students won’t necessarily be engaging in mediation, but we know that as courts look to provide ADR and mediation services to the public, it will become imperative that judges have a better understanding of best practices,” said Feldman. “I am honored that the JEC and School of Law are stepping up to provide this quality educational experience for the judges in our state.”

Chavez looks forward to returning to the classroom for this fall’s mediation training course. In the same way he immersed himself in getting to know his clients when he was practicing law, he feels that same importance as he leads the Supreme Court’s ADR initiative.

“If I am going to effectively talk about the virtues of ADR, I really need to know ADR,” he said. 

Included in this new initiative are scholarships to cover tuition for two judges or court staff in each UNM mediation course going forward. The Judicial Education Center (JEC) at the School of Law's Institute for Public Law is funding the scholarships plus travel for out-of-town attendees. Clovis Magistrate Judge Duane Castleberry will also be attending the October training.

September 20, 2011