It has finally happened. A shooting following a mediation session. I never thought mediators would have to request hazardous duty pay. Fortunately, it wasn’t the mediator who was shot, this time. In this case, one participant shot another participant and his attorney. But I’m sure it will happen someday, if it hasn’t already. It has happened in courthouses and courtrooms. Given the widespread ownership of guns in this country, and the lax system (if you can call it that) of background checks before a person can buy one, I suppose it is inevitable. Someone will take the law into his or her own hands and shoot a mediator. And the NRA will say it wasn’t the gun’s fault, it was the shooter. Don’t take guns away from bad guys; get more good guys to carry them. But has anyone heard of some good guy with a gun (other than a law enforcement officer) shooting a bad guy before the bad guy shoots someone else? I haven’t. Besides, owning a gun doesn’t necessarily give you the right or ability to determine who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.
This blog is supposed to be about how we resolve our disputes, so I won’t get into the gun control debate any further. But I do need to say that we should all step back and remember what it means to live in a civilized society. Our social contract says we have given up the right to use lethal force to resolve disputes in exchange for a judicial system whose decisions are final. Yes, we can still use force and guns in self defense, and for recreational purposes, like hunting. But those are not legitimate means of dispute resolution. The idea behind civil litigation is that a judge or court resolves the dispute, rightly or wrongly, the parties put it behind them, and then they get on with the rest of their lives. The idea behind mediation is that the parties discuss the dispute with the help of an impartial mediator, and find a resolution they can both live with, even if a court could not order it, and then do just that — live with it!
Americans frequently get criticized for being overly litigious. Why is that a bad thing? Eighty to ninety percent of all civil cases are settled short of trial. Even when litigation is not settled, the parties usually get a full and fair hearing. I like to think that if Hamlet had lived in the U.S., he would have filed a lawsuit and avoided his existential crisis. But the shooter in the mediation case has proved me wrong. Like Hamlet, he chose to face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and, by opposing, end them — along with his own life.