It’s great to know that your friends are watching out for you. Ericka Gray tipped me off today about an important decision concerning mediation confidentiality, handed down on Friday by the New Jersey Supreme Court. This is the first case in New Jersey to consider the issues of confidentiality and privilege under New Jersey’s recently enacted Uniform Mediation Act (“UMA”).
In State of New Jersey v. Carl Williams, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a mediator appointed to mediate by the municipal court in a harassment dispute could not later be compelled to testify in a subsequent criminal proceeding on behalf of one of the parties in the mediation.
In considering the case, the court invited amicus briefs from the New Jersey State Bar Association and the New Jersey Committee on Dispute Resolution. Although the Uniform Mediation Act was enacted after a lower court had excluded the mediator’s testimony, nonetheless, at the urging of the two amici, the Court agreed “that the UMA principles, in general, are an appropriate analytical framework for the determination whether defendant can overcome the mediator’s privilege not to testify.”
The court’s decision is important in that it recognizes how central confidentiality is to the integrity of the mediation process and how critical it is to safeguard public trust and confidence in mediated settlement discussions.