I participated in a panel discussion yesterday at the Birmingham Bar Center regarding how ADR can help ease the backlog of cases currently facing all divisions of our courts in Jefferson County. I was honored to be on this panel with our presiding judge, Scott Vowell, criminal judge Stephen Wallace, domestic relations judge Julie Palmer, mediator John Hall, and attorney Anthony Joseph. I send out a special thank you to Michael Trucks for thinking of me to fill his slot on this panel when he became unavailable to participate. I appreciate any opportunity to speak about ADR issues as I believe strongly in the process and am committed to spreading the message.
A number of topics related to ADR and the courts were presented to a group of about 35 lawyers in attendance. An overriding theme was the current cutbacks our courts face. The numbers of cases stuck in the system is staggering – in the domestic relations (divorce) courts alone on any given day there are approximately 2,500 cases pending, and many stay in the system for a year to 18 months or longer! Mediation can help move cases through the system – while providing better results for the parties in a cost effective manner. Spreading the word is the key.
We discussed a number of great ADR programs working in our courts – volunteer mediation dockets in district civil and domestic relations courts, pro bono mediation available in circuit court, proposals for mediation in criminal cases, work with the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Cumberland School of Law Community Mediation Center and its program for mediating college support cases at the Jefferson County Family Court, and the upcoming Collaborative Law training. Birmingham has a very diverse and vibrant ADR community. Our ADR section of the Birmingham Bar is doing a great job to spread the word that better alternatives are out there. I am committed to doing my part – and I hope the legal community will take greater advantage of the resources available to help ease the burden on our courts during this time of budgetary cut-backs.