Drilling Down: Mediators’ Dilemmas – Live CLE/CME

Friday, April 26, 2019

This seminar offers an in-depth examination of dilemmas that DRC-certified mediators face in their mediation practices and provides guidance for how to successfully meet these challenges. Click here to sign up for the course.

3 hours Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit, pending NC State Bar approval / 2 hours Continuing Mediator Education (CME) credit, approved by the NC Dispute Resolution Commission

Every active MSC and FFS mediator certified by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC) must annually complete 2 hours of continuing mediator education (CME) certified by the DRC. As this credit is not permitted to roll over to subsequent years, this course is approved by the DRC for only two hours of CME for FY 2018-19. Review the DRC rules here. Click here to sign up for the course.

Coffee and light snacks provided.


9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
Presenter: Gary Cash

  1. Mediators Called on the Carpet

Complaints about mediator conduct are heard by the Dispute Resolution Commission. Former DRC Chair Gary Cash will review both the most common and the most troubling types of complaints and explain what happens after complaints are lodged with the DRC. He will also offer practical advice about how mediators might avoid complaints, censure and de-certification.

  1. Staying Within the Lines: No Professional Advice from Mediators

Mediators are prohibited from giving legal or other professional advice during mediation. How does a mediator who is guiding parties in evaluation of their dispute avoid crossing the line into giving advice? How does a mediator effectively help the parties assess their case and their settlement options without violating this standard of conduct?

III. Down to Brass Tacks: Ethical Issues for Mediator’s Proposals

When a case should settle but is near impasse at mediation, parties may ask for a “mediator’s proposal,” that is, the mediator’s unbiased opinion of what both parties would likely accept to settle the case. What ethical issues can arise in these situations under the mediator’s standards of conduct? What steps should a mediator take to maintain impartiality and protect the mediation process?

10:00 a.m.–10:45 a.m.
Presenter: Frank Goldsmith

  1. Case Evaluation Without Imposing Mediator’s Opinions: Helping Parties Reach Informed and Thoughtful Decisions

Mediators are also prohibited from imposing their opinions about the merits of the dispute or the acceptability of settlement options. Many mediators rely upon their skills and experience to guide the parties to resolution, and to help parties recognize motivating factors beyond the merits of the dispute. But how does a mediator make sure they are not imposing their opinions? And how far should a mediator go to uncover hidden motivators and unspoken constraints so that good decisions can be made about settlement?

  1. Conflicts of Interest: Traps for the Unwary

Mediators cannot allow personal interests to interfere with their obligation to impartially serve the parties to a dispute. What does this mean when a mediator is acquainted with parties and/or counsel in a case? What disclosures and/or consents should be obtained when asked to mediate a case involving: one’s former clients, one’s former law partners, former law firm, former colleagues on the bench? And what must a mediator do when parties are represented by attorneys in a law firm where the mediator has a spouse or other relative, or by counsel who are close friends of the mediator? How should mediators understand conflicts of interest? When can disclosure and consent be utilized to avoid concerns which might lead to questions about the mediator’s impartiality?

  1. The Whole Spiel: The Ten Commandments of Mediator Openings

Court rules for mediation programs require that mediators begin conferences with a long litany of definitions and explanations. What are these mandatory items and why should even the most seasoned mediators remember to discuss each one, every time? What consequences can follow from skipping these mandatory mentions?

11:00 a.m. –11:45 a.m.
Presenter: Sharon Tracey Barrett

VII. Mastering Yourself: Mediator Impartiality in Tough Cases

Mediators must remain impartial throughout the course of mediation, which can be a lengthy and arduous process. How does a mediator maintain this neutral role in high conflict situations? What strategies can help mediators who must deal with parties who are experiencing high anxiety, as well as difficult or obnoxious people? What tips will help the mediator remain impartial even in cases where the mediator feels more empathetic to one side, such as where equities seem to favor one side significantly more than another?

VIII. Winking and Nodding: Confidentiality Within the Mediation Process

What are the things a mediator must keep confidential during mediation? And how can a mediator deal with difficult questions about something that cannot be revealed?

  1. “Look Ma! No Hands!” Keeping Control of the Conference

Mediators have both the authority and the duty to control the mediated settlement conference, according to program rules. What does this mean when a mediator confronts specific problems, and how should a mediator respond when faced with: unresponsive parties or lawyers, scheduling challenges, attendance issues, disruptive conduct at mediation and parties employing unfair, hardball negotiating tactics?

11:45 a.m.– 12:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion



Gary Cash

Gary Cash served as a North Carolina District Court Judge in Asheville, NC for twenty-five years until his retirement on December 31, 2010, and was the District’s Chief Judge for the eight years before he stepped down from the bench. He attended Davidson College, during which time he was an International Rotary Scholar at the University of Muenster, West Germany. Following his graduation from Davidson in 1971, he was a Rockefeller Fellow at Yale University Divinity School before earning his J.D. degree from the UNC School of Law in 1976. Prior to being elected to the bench in 1986, Gary worked in Asheville for ten years as a general practitioner in the private practice of law. He has held numerous statewide judicial leadership positions including serving as President of the NC Conference of Chief District Court Judges, President of the NC Association of District Court Judges, and as a Director of the NC Joint Judicial Conference. He is the immediate past Chair of the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission, on which he was a member from 2012 to 2018, and is a former Chair of the NC Custody Mediation Advisory Committee. He is certified by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission to mediate matters before the Superior Court, the District Court, and the Clerks of Court.

Frank Goldsmith

Frank Goldsmith operates a mediation and arbitration practice under the name Goldsmith Resolutions, based in Buncombe County. He is a graduate of Davidson College and received his Juris Doctor degree with honors from UNC-Chapel Hill. Frank was certified as a mediator in 1996 and has mediated many state and federal cases in the past 23 years. He has been listed in “Best Lawyers in America,” “Super Lawyers,” and “North Carolina Legal Elite” in the fields of alternate dispute resolution and employment law.

Sharon Tracey Barrett

Sharon Tracey Barrett is a retired Superior Court Judge and a former Buncombe County District Court Judge. She currently serves as an Associate Judge and Justice for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and as an Emergency Superior Court Judge.

She graduated cum laude from Boston College in 1983 and received her J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1986. She practiced law in Asheville with the firm of Patla, Straus, Robinson & Moore for nineteen years, focusing primarily on civil litigation, until she became a judge in 2005. She was President of the Buncombe County Bar from 2002-2003 (28th Judicial District), and also served terms as Secretary-Treasurer and as a member of the Grievance Committee, Pro Bono Committee, and Executive Committee. She received the local bar’s Pro Bono Award in 1996. She serves as Immediate Past President of the Board of Directors of The Mediation Center, a western North Carolina non-profit providing mediation and supervised visitation services; she previously served on that Board from 2006-2012.

Through a practice called Barrett Resolutions, Sharon currently works as a mediator and arbitrator. She is a member of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (NADN.org). She mediates civil cases that would otherwise be decided in Superior Court or federal court, including most types of civil cases other than family law. For additional background information, visit www.barrettresolutions.com.

Please find our refund/cancellation policy here.

All registration fees benefit The Mediation Center.