COLUMBIANA COUNTY Officials seek creation of mediator program

Earlier this year, the county thought it had a state grant to pay for the program, but the funding fell through.
LISBON -- Columbiana County Common Pleas Court officials are trying to create a program intended to settle some lawsuits more quickly.
The court should know in the next few weeks if it can afford to hire a part-time mediator who would work with parties in civil lawsuits, Judge David Tobin said.
The mediator's goal would be to help craft settlements in order to avoid trials. Settling a case short of trial can save litigants costly legal bills, Tobin explained.
Generally, people are more willing to live up to a court settlement and be more satisfied with it if they have a hand in formulating it, and a mediator could help that happen, the judge added.
Another advantage: A secondary and less-important aspect of the program would be to help reduce the court's hearing and trial docket, Judge Tobin said. Determining which lawsuits would be eligible for the mediations process would be up to the judge assigned the matter.
There is no clear-cut criteria for deciding which case would undergo the process, Judge Tobin said.
Lawsuits would be considered for mediation on a case-by-case basis.
Judge Tobin added that, if a mediation program is implemented, it probably will be on an experimental basis to allow the court to determine how well it's working and how much it's costing.
It's unclear right now how much the court would have to pay a person to serve as a part-time mediator, or from where in the court's budget his or her salary would come.
The court is hopeful that the Ohio Supreme Court would pay to have the person undergo training in the mediation process.
County common pleas court thought earlier this year that it would have a full-time mediation program in place by this month.
The Ohio Supreme Court announced in April that Columbiana County Common Pleas Court was among eight county common pleas courts in the state that would receive state grants to implement a full-time mediator program as part of a two-year pilot project.
Funds gone: But the county learned several weeks ago that budget cuts at the state level forced the Supreme Court to cancel the grant program. The grant, its amount unspecified, would have paid to hire a full-time mediator and support staff to assist that person.
The state Supreme Court intended to monitor the effort to gauge its success in settling disputes.
When the grant program was announced, Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Moyer said mediation "promotes efficiency, reduces delays and encourages active participation by all parties in resolving disputes."