Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in my first mediation. This is another “perk” of the HOA job. We have a large lawsuit pending and normally the parties in such lawsuits will try and meet to arrange a settlement so that you don’t have to go to court. Trials are expensive and time consuming and they take over your life — so I am told.
The details of the mediation are confidential but I can tell you about the process. We went to downtown Denver to the Judicial Arbiter Group (JAG). This is a group of retired Colorado Judges (some from the Colorado Supreme Court) that will hear your case and try and lead you to agree to a resolution between the parties. We all started in a room together laying out the ground rules and establishing who the players were. Then you separate out and go into different conference rooms. Then the judge goes from one room to the other and debates the issue back and forth. I guess this helps move things along because you have to debate through him. Keeps you from yelling at your opponent I guess as well. At times the middle man felt — well, like a middle man.
The tactics are funny because they would come into our room and say, “They are going to give you $1! That is a great offer. You don’t want to go to trial. This is all you are going to get. Take it and go home.” Then we sit there and think about it with him in the room. That’s not enough. Its not worth getting paid $1 today. We have a better case. So we say, “Tell them we want 1 billion!”. Judge says ok and leaves. I can see him going back into the other room. I know he is telling them some reverse logic and trying to argue everyone to the middle.
The experience was like buying a car. Ever done that? And you hear, “Let me go talk to my manager and see what he will do.” So you sit and wait and he comes back with good or bad news. Same thing here. It was just more formal and instead of a car salesmen it was a retired judge. They also had drinks, magazines, wifi access, and snacks — just like the car dealerships.