Carson woman asking city to start mediation center
Money isn’t everything, especially when it comes to small claims disputes over fence construction or minor car accidents.
But when those cases end up in court, the best Carson City Justice of the Peace John Tatro can do is award monetary damages even though “the best thing to do would have the guy fix it,” he said.
Carson City resident Cathy Thayer hopes to convince city officials there is a way to help neighbors work toward fixing their problems rather than going to court.
Thayer, an attorney and trained mediator, wants to start a Neighborhood Mediation Center in Carson providing parties in small claims cases a chance to work through their issues before asking a judge to make a decision. Mediation centers are allowed through state law, and the nonprofit centers are paid for by court filing fees.
Thayer said there are more than 650 communities with mediation centers that resolve around 45,000 cases annually. Thayer said judges are often concerned that people don’t understand the court system, believing it is their only option for problem resolution.
“If peers sit down, talk and are heard, that is a better way to work out their differences,” Thayer said. “It’s highly effective. Those who go through mediation have a higher success rate of sticking to what they came up with than with people who go to court. They take ownership of the solution when they work through a mediator and not have a judge say, ‘This is what you’re going to do.'”
Tatro said the director of the Reno mediation center told him no one who has opted for mediation has returned and asked for a court hearing to which they are entitled.
“There must be something to it,” he said. “I’m supportive of this.”
Beside offering clients a chance to work out an amiable solution to a problem, mediation centers can put clients in touch with multiple community legal agencies. Also, those who choose mediation can return to the courts if the discussion fails.
The idea is just taking shape. Mediators are required be trained and are volunteers. Thayer said state law allows an increase of filing fees to fund the center, costs which will be mostly basic overhead, she said. Tatro said he and Justice of the Peace Robey Willis would have to further examine the procedure before asking for an increase in filing fees.
“I think it makes the city look good, especially in these times, if they can provide ways to resolve disputes,” Thayer said. “I think that’s what everyone wants.”