How Mediation Developed in Bankruptcy Court — A Local Example (Part 3)

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Federal Courthouse, Omaha, Nebraska

By Donald L. Swanson

It’s January 2011. I’m sitting in a conference room at the Federal Courthouse in Omaha (the building is new and beautiful; you should visit it sometime). It’s a “brown-bag luncheon” for the local bankruptcy bench and bar. We’re on the last agenda item (open forum), and the judge asks for input. Having recently completed a couple of state court meditations, I raise my hand and say, “What about using meditations in bankruptcy?” Next thing that happens: I’m chair of the Nebraska Bankruptcy Court Mediation Committee.

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Rotunda, Federal Courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska

How hard can this be? We gather together a blue-ribbon committee, including a couple of law school mediation professors, a clerk of court official, and a bunch of attorneys that span the business/consumer and debtor/creditor divides. Having model local rules to draw from would be to die for — but we don’t, so we poach from local rules in other jurisdictions and cobble together a respectable-looking set of local rules. And the local bankruptcy court promptly adopts them. Then we find trained mediators and create a list of highly qualified, court-approved mediators.

Then the hard part begins. It is assumed that “if we build it, they will come.” No such luck.

Part four will discuss difficulties in getting local attorneys to utilize the new mediation rules.

*** Note 1: this article was originally published by the American Bankruptcy Institute in its June 2015 edition of the Mediation Committee Newsletter (Vol. 2, Num 2). And it can also be found via web***

Note 2:  This article is the third of a four-part series on the history of mediation development in Omaha, Nebraska.  The first two parts discuss mediation developments in non-bankruptcy courts, and the last two parts discuss mediation developments in the Bankruptcy Court.

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