September 25, 2019 Alternative Dispute Resolution

Recognizing The Importance of Using Diverse Neutrals in Family Cases: Preparing for Mediation Week and Implementing ABA Resolution 105

By: Nika Gholston & Rebecca Simpson

October has arrived, which means preparations for Mediation Week are underway.

The ABA annually recognizes the third week in October as Mediation Week – an opportunity to foster awareness about mediation and to promote the effective use of the process and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques. Statistically, there are many advantages of mediation over litigation in family law cases, including the attainment of agreements, reduced costs, greater compliance by the parties, and preservation of ongoing relationships.

This year, the theme for Mediation Week is “The Importance of Using Diverse Neutrals.” Paradoxically, even as the country becomes more diverse, there is a dearth of mediators, arbitrators, and conciliators from minority backgrounds. Most ADR practitioners come from the judiciary or senior-level positions at law firms where minorities remain significantly underrepresented. The result is a conspicuous absence of women, non-white men, non-Christians and members of the LGBTQ community serving as neutrals in dispute resolution proceedings.

Compounding the disparity of representation in the field is lack of access to and inclusion in professional networks such as the American Arbitration Association. In 2018, rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z criticized the American Arbitration Association’s “Large and Complex Cases” database for its lack of diverse arbitrators on the roster. The entrepreneur, embroiled in a legal battle over his Roc Nation clothing brand, won an injunction to temporarily halt arbitration proceedings on the grounds that there were not enough African Americans eligible to rule on his case.

In August of 2018, the ABA House of Delegates adopted ABA Resolution 105 encouraging providers of domestic and international dispute resolution services to expand their rosters with minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities (“diverse neutrals”), and to encourage the selection of diverse neutrals.

Resolution 105 furthers the ABA established Mission to eliminate bias and enhance diversity and recognizes that clients, businesses, government, and society as a whole are best served when our legal profession reflects the communities we serve.  

This year, Mediation Week is October 13-19th and events are being organized in communities world-wide.  A Mediation Week Toolkit is available to aid in planning Mediation Week events in your city.

Nika Gholston

Esq., Montgomery, AL

Nika Gholston Law LLC

Rebecca Simpson

Esq., Bowling Green, KY

English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP

ABA Section of Family Law Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee Chair