by Toby Treem Guerin, Esq.
Since September 2019, important ADR Rules changes have emerged from the Maryland Judiciary Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. The changes affect standards of conduct for court-designated ADR practice, parenting plan mediation, access to electronic court records, and Court of Special Appeals mediators.
New Standards of Conduct
In December 2019, the Court of Appeals of Maryland adopted two standards of conduct, one for court-designated Mediators and one for court-designated Arbitrators, Fact Finders, Neutral Evaluators, and Settlement Conference Practitioners. These separate standards of conduct, formerly within a single document, provide broad guidance for ADR practitioners. The Rules Committee incorporated the new standards by approving reference and grammatical adjustments to the appropriate sections of Title 17-Alternative Dispute Resolution (17-205, 17-206, 17-304, 17-405, 17-603). Reference Rules Report 201.
Parenting Plan Mediation
Mediators can now have an even greater role in parent plan mediations that conclude without agreement. If parents are unable to reach a comprehensive parenting plan agreement through mediation, Rule 9-204.2 now requires the parents to file a “Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parenting Time.” And the mediator now “may assist the parties” in completing the joint statement, per Rule 9-205.
In a related development, the Court expanded the category of circumstances not appropriate for an order to mediation. The category now includes “coercive control” defined as “a pattern of emotional or psychological manipulation, maltreatment, or intimidation to compel an individual by force or threat to engage in conduct from which the individual has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the individual has a right to engage.” The Maryland Judiciary recognizes that this dynamic can occur during custody and visitation disputes. Reference Rules Reports 201 and 209.
Remote Access to MDEC Court Records
Ever since the implementation of MDEC and the availability of judicial records through an online platform, ADR practitioners have requested access to the information to assist them in their role as neutrals. The amendments to Rule 20-109 provides remote access to ADR practitioners for cases where they are the court-designated ADR Practitioner. The access is limited to the specific case and only for the time in which they serve as the ADR Practitioner. Circuit court practitioners must file notice with the court when initiating and terminating their role. Reference Rules Report 209.
District Court Senior Judges & Retired Circuit Court Magistrates
The Court of Special Appeals Mediation Program uses a co-mediation model to provide mediation for appropriate matters before the court. The program combines the expertise of staff-attorney-mediators and trained judges to provide subject matter and process expertise in mediation. Amendments to Rule 17-405 expand the field of possible mediators to permit senior judges of the District Court and retired circuit court magistrates to serve as mediators so long as they meet the other mediator qualifications. Reference Rules Report 209.
Toby Treem Guerin is the Associate Director with the Center for Dispute Resolution at Maryland Carey Law (C-DRUM) and a former chair of the ADR Section of the MSBA. She trains law students and others in the practice of mediation and conflict resolution and welcomes your inquiries.