In 2005, the State's Attorney for Cecil County created a new Mediation Center to serve the courts and the public. The Center offers a way to resolve charges in certain criminal offenses by providing the opportunity for the complaining party and the defendant to work out their dispute in mediation without going to court and at no cost to the participants. Mediation benefits both the parties and the community. The parties themselves can often resolve their dispute and create a more satisfactory outcome than the courts.
The Mediation Center for the Office of the State's Attorney for Cecil County is funded in part by a grant from the Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) located in Annapolis, MD.
Mediation is a process where people in dispute can talk things out. They come together, and with the help of an impartial mediator, they discuss their dispute to identify and clarify issues and to identify and discuss options. Very often, they reach an agreement that is mutually satisfactory and settles the dispute.
Mediation is voluntary and confidential. The parties must agree to go through mediation before mediation may be scheduled. A party does not give up his or her legal rights by participating in mediation. If an agreement is not reached, the parties can still go to court.
Mediators are provided by Community Mediation Upper Shore, Inc. (CMUS), a non-profit center located in Chestertown, MD. CMUS is one of 18 mediation centers in the state of Maryland that trains volunteers in mediation and conflict resolution skills. A mediator is not a judge and does not provide advice, legal or otherwise, or make a decision for the participants. Since the participants know what they need better than anyone else, they make the decisions.
A mediator first explains the process and answers any questions. Then each participant has time to explain why they came to mediation. The mediator then helps the participants discuss the dispute openly and identify issues and explore options so that the participants develop an agreement to resolve the dispute. As a final step, the mediator writes the agreement in the words of the participants.
Mediation is scheduled at a time and location convenient for the participants. A mediation session lasts about two hours. If more time is needed, an additional session may be scheduled. Mediation is offered at no cost to the participants.
Participants usually come alone to mediation. However, if both participants agree that other participants present would help resolve the conflict then they may attend.
The Mediation Center Coordinator may select cases for mediation, or a District Court Commissioner may submit cases to mediation. The complaining party may request mediation by contacting the Mediation Center Coordinator. Cases only proceed to mediation with the approval of the State's Attorney or his designee.
Once the State’s Attorney approves a case for mediation, the Mediation Center Coordinator will contact the complaining party by letter with a copy to the defendant or the defendant's attorney. If the complaining party agrees to mediation the case will be referred to CMUS. An employee of CMUS will contact both the complaining party and the defendant to schedule mediation at a mutually convenient time and place.
If participants reach an agreement in mediation the State's Attorney may either agree to not prosecute the case or to place the case on the stet docket until the terms of the agreement have been satisfied.