The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter October 2009

J.P. Courts and the Role of Mediation
by James Rainwater

As a pro bono mediator for the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center, I've had the opportunity to mediate small claims cases at the various Justice of the Peace Courts. One thing I've noticed time and again is the lack of the parties' understanding of mediation. Quite often the disputants are not aware that a process exists to aid in resolving their legal conflicts, while assuming a considerably less stressful format. Yet, with the jurisdictional limit of J.P. Court being raised to $10,000.00, the role of mediation is even more important.

In small claims cases, mediation provides a cost-effective alternative for attorneys to resolve their clients' matters. The time, money, preparation, and client stress involved in going to trial can be off-set by a mediation conference. The initial formality of the meeting combined with the informality of face-to-face conversation can yield results even the parties may not anticipate.

Some may argue that clients want their day in court, but I contend that most folks simply want their money returned for faulty auto repairs, broken leases, or bad business dealings. By nature, small claims cases generally involve parties who personally know each other. The long-term benefits of mediation will go a long way in mending these relationships.

Where J.P. Court offers a forum of sorts, mediation offers the parties an immense platform for airing complaints, providing unknown information, and the venting of emotions, while averting potential future hostilities. Appearing before a judge can be exhilarating, but having major control over a dispute can offer more to the disputants. Oftentimes, it is not simply a matter of yes or no, and mediation permits an in-depth understanding of these issues for the parties.

Rainwater Law