|Q.||What is the District Criminal Court Mediation Program?|
|A.||Mediators affiliated with various community mediation centers have been mediating misdemeanor criminal cases in our State’s district courts for a number of years with much success. In 2007, the North Carolina legislature adopted G.S. 7A-38.3D. That legislation established a framework for certifying and regulating mediators conducting such mediations. That same year, the North Carolina Supreme Court adopted its Rules Implementing Mediation in Matters Pending in District Criminal Court (Rules) providing for program operations and implementing the certification process set out in the enabling legislation. The legislation and Rules were intended to strengthen, formalize, and standardize existing efforts to mediate misdemeanor criminal cases and to encourage judicial districts that were not mediating such disputes to do so.
Neither the court, district attorneys, or community mediation centers are required to implement the statute and Rules. It is possible that your case may be filed in a judicial district that has chosen not to mediate misdemeanor criminal matters. It is also possible that your case may be filed in a district that does mediate such cases, but has chosen not to follow the Rules. Such districts will have their own local approach to providing such services and their mediators will be qualified under some other standard. If your case is pending is one of these districts, some of the information that follows may not be applicable to your mediation.
|Q.||What is mediation and what is the role of the mediator?|
|A.|| In mediation you and the other participants involved in your case will be asked to sit down with a mediator or pair of mediators to discuss why you are in court and to try and find ways to resolve your dispute that are acceptable to everyone. Each person will have an opportunity to share his/her perspective of the dispute and to suggest and discuss options for resolving the matter. The mediator will help to keep your discussions focused and moving forward and will help you evaluate different ways to settle your dispute. |
Mediators are impartial and do not take sides. Your mediator will listen to what everyone has to say and then help you explore ways to settle your conflict. He or she will not decide the matter for you. His or her role is to help you and the others involved in the dispute formulate your own settlement terms. Mediators cannot give legal advice.
|Q.||Is mediation confidential?|
|A.||Whether you are able to settle your case or not, your mediator will not give a report to a district attorney, judge or jury about statements that were made or conduct that occurred at your mediation. If your case did not settle, the mediator will not blame anyone or tell the district attorney/judge/jury why it did not settle. In rare instances where a statute requires it or there is a public safety issue, a mediator may be required to report statements made or conduct occurring to other officials, such as the police. The conduct of parties is not so closely regulated as that of mediators. If you are concerned that the opposing side or some other participant in your mediation might speak to the press or share with others what occurred at your mediation, you may want to speak with your attorney about the need for a confidentiality agreement. |
|Q.||Who are the mediators?|
|A.||A single certified mediator may conduct your mediation or a pair of mediators may serve as co-mediators. A judge will appoint your mediator(s) or will ask the community mediation center responsible for administering the program to assign staff or volunteers to conduct your session. Community mediation centers are non-profit agencies dedicated to resolving conflict peacefully. |
If your judicial district and community mediation center are following the new Supreme Court Rules, you can be assured your mediator has met the requirements for certification to conduct district criminal court mediations and that his or her conduct is regulated by the NC Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC). Rule 7 of the Supreme Court’s Rules Implementing Mediation in Matters Pending In District Criminal Court sets forth mediator certification criteria and can be viewed on this web site. Certified mediators come from all walks of life. Many are retired professionals, business owners or long-time community volunteers. Most importantly, they are there because they want to help you and the others involved in your case resolve your conflict.
|Q.||Will I be required to participate in mediation? |
|A.||Participation in mediation in district criminal court is typically voluntary. A judge, district attorney or district attorney, or defense attorney may encourage you to consider mediation, but will not require you to attend. However, if your case was generated by a citizen-initiated arrest warrant, your participation in mediation may be required. If you believe mediation is not appropriate for your case and you prefer to have a trial, let your judge, district attorney know. |
|Q.||Why should I participate in mediation?|
|A.||There are many reasons why you should consider mediation. Mediation is usually less stressful and time consuming than a trial. You will not have to take the stand and testify, nor will you have to bring witnesses. Mediation offers you and the other participants to the dispute the opportunity to be in control of the outcome of your conflict. Some research indicates that people are more likely to follow through on agreements that they make in mediation as opposed to ones forced upon them by a court. If you are a defendant, a successful mediation may mean that you can avoid a criminal record and more expensive fines and costs. If you are a complaining witness, an opportunity to sit down with others involved in the dispute and work out your conflicts may provide more satisfaction than a judge’s verdict.
Sometimes mediation can help bring people together. If those involved in a dispute are relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or were once friends, talking about and working through conflict can often be an important first step in repairing damaged relationships. People may be angry or hurt when they come to mediation and mediator(s) will try to help everyone understand the differing perspectives of those involved in the conflict. When underlying causes of a conflict are brought to light, people often settle the case at hand, may learn how to avoid future conflicts, and may even heal their broken relationships.
|Q.||Where will my mediation be held?|
|A.||If the courthouse has set aside space for mediation, you will likely meet with your mediator the same day you agree to participate. Some community mediation centers ask parties to come to the office of the mediation center to mediate and, if that is case, you will be given an appointment to appear at the center in the near future.
|Q.||Is there a cost to mediation?|
|A.||Yes. When a case settles in mediation, the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where your case is filed will assesse a $60 fee. That fee is in lieu of the $120 fee a defendant is required to pay if they are found guilty or enter a guilty plea. Although the statute states the $60 fee is the responsibility of the defendant, the parties may share this cost among themselves. Such cost sharing may be particularly appropriate if with more than one defendant or multiple warrants settled within a mediation. The Clerk collects the fee and remits it to the Mediation Network of NC. The MNNC may retain up to $3.00 for each case dismissed and then forward the balance to the local community mediation center.
No. If the parties are indigent or the mediator determines there are other compelling reasons, the court may consider waiving the fee.
|Q.||Should I bring a lawyer with me?|
|A.||If you have an attorney he or she may come with you to mediation, but you are not required to have a lawyer with you. In fact, many parties in misdemeanor criminal cases are not represented by an attorney and simply speak for themselves in mediation.
|Q.||What can I do to be successful in mediation?|
|A.||There are many things that you can do to help the mediation process work:|
a) Have a positive outlook. Go to your mediation confident that you will be able to have a productive discussion and settle your case;
b) Come prepared to give the mediator and others present a short, clear summary of the dispute from your perspective;
c) Listen and be respectful to all who are present.
d) Respect the mediator’s authority. Program rules provide that the mediator is to be in control of the conference and those attending will need to comply with whatever ground rules the mediator sets;
e) Be open to creative solutions.
f) Be prepared to compromise and to move forward. Mediation is all about working things out with someone else and getting on with your life;
g) Be willing to accept responsibility for the way your own actions may have contributed to the conflict and to apologize and make amends; and,
h) Be willing to forgive when you have been wronged.
|Q.||What happens if we reach / do not reach, an agreement in mediation? |
|A.||If you reach an agreement in mediation, your mediator will record your agreement in writing. Then you and other participants will have an opportunity to review and to sign the agreement. When reaching an agreement, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed that day. If the charges are not dismissed that day, your mediator will work with the district attorney to arrive at an appropriate length of time to hold the case open until the terms of the agreement have been met. If you experience any difficulties in meeting the terms of your agreement before the next court date, you are encouraged to contact the community mediation center for assistance.
Sometimes disputes cannot be resolved in mediation. If that is the case, your mediator will report to the court that the mediation did not result in an agreement and your case will continue to be processed by the court. Mediation is a confidential process and a mediator will not tell the judge why your case did not settle or provide information about your discussions.
|Q.||What if I think my mediator has acted inappropriately or unethically?|
|A.||If you have concerns about how your mediator is conducting your mediation, you may want to politely raise them with the mediator. He or she may be able to resolve your concerns by helping you to better understand the process and the role of the mediator. If you can’t resolve your concerns with the mediator, you may, following your mediation, speak with the Executive Director of the community mediation center where your mediator works or volunteers or you may contact the NC Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC) at (919) 890-1415. The DRC is responsible for certifying mediators and regulating their conduct. |
|Q.||What if I need a mediator in the future?|
|A.||Mediators can help resolve many kinds of disputes and many community mediation centers offer a range of services, including mediation of neighborhood disputes, landlord tenant disputes, business and employment disputes, and family disputes, including divorce mediation. The next time that you are involved in a conflict, you may want to consider mediation before you resort to the courts. Services may be available on a sliding scale. |
|Q.||Where can I get more information? |
|A.||You can find the Supreme Court’s Rules Implementing Mediation in Matters Pending In District Criminal Court on
To learn more about district criminal court mediation, you can contact your local community mediation center or the Dispute Resolution Commission. However, please be aware that staff cannot give legal advice or respond to questions about your specific dispute. To learn more about mediation in general and the services available through your local community mediation center, contact your center. Center contact information is available through the Commission at (919) 890-1415 or the Mediation Network of North Carolina at (919) 663-5650 or
|Q.||What if I don't speak English?|
|A.||Some centers have staff or volunteer mediators who speak Spanish or other languages. If possible, you may want to have the center alerted ahead of time that you are unable to speak English, so a mediator will be available to assist you. In case the center cannot provide assistance, you may want to bring someone with you to the mediation who speaks both English and your native language. That person can act as your interpreter and translator.