Mediation Round Table! Billings, Montana

Mediation Round Table! Billings, Montana

MEDIATION ROUND TABLE: : How Mediation can help alleviate problems in the Judicial System

Recently, the Board of the Montana Mediation Association was welcomed to Billings by the High Plains Professional Mediation Group (HPPMG).  Temple McLean, a member of that group is on our Board.  The HPPMG not only welcomed us, they fed us!  The food was fantastic.  It was provided by the Caramel Cookie Waffle, Good Earth Market Co-op, Rock Creek Coffee Roasters and Passages.  I loved learning more about Passages and the cooks who served us. This is a women’s pre-release culinary arts program that has received national recognition.  This program teaches Montana Women’s Prison inmates real-world food service industry skills. The 18-month program requires  the participants to have passed a rigorous screening and application process to complete 2,000 hours of hands-on training — from cooking for local events to working with local chefs and businesses — and another 280 hours of coursework study.  They are fabulous chiefs and are available for catering.  As a matter of fact, they recently traveled to Helena for the 2017 Governor’s Inaugural Ball.

The Roundtable Panel Presentation’s moderator was Patty Fain. She is the Statewide Pro Bono Coordinator, who works through the Office of the Court Administrator of the Montana Supreme Court.  She facilitated communication and provided a balanced understanding of the information while being attentive to audience participation. The panelist consisted of professionals who discussed their unique expertise, understanding and perception of the benefits of facilitative mediation.

Judge Russell Fagg, 13th Judicial District Trial Court Judge. He has presided over nearly 200 jury trials and more than 3,000 non-jury trials, including civil, criminal, and family cases. He has been assigned approximately 25,000 cases over the last 20 years. Prior to his lengthy time on the bench, he served as the Deputy  Yellowstone County Attorney in the areas of Felony Prosecution, Insurance Defense in civil litigation involving the County, and counsel for County Commissioners.

He is a staunch advocate for access to justice and his community.  Judge Fagg is vocal in regard to his desire to “mediate everything”.  He sees mediation as being a process that allows people to work through their issue and reach agreements in a do-able manner which minimizes court contact while still providing some court safeguards.

Dr. Chris Hahn is a Full and Family Certified Mediator with the Montana Mediation Association, on the Supreme Court roster of approved mediators in North Dakota, the financial officer of the Board of Directors of the Montana Mediation Association, and Vice President of the Board of the Community Mediation Center in Bozeman. Dr. Hahn’s academic experience and his Ph.D., in Human Services, culminated in his dissertation on successful consensus building in difficult circumstances. He is the principal owner of Constructive Agreement is located in Bozeman, Montana.

Gary Connelly, Pro Bono program & mediation with Crowley Fleck, PLLP. Mr. Connelly joined the firm in 1996 and devotes the majority of this time to the performance of indigent pro bono service on behalf of the firm. Prior to joining the firm, Gary was a managing attorney for Montana Legal Services Association and has extensive experience representing low income clients in family law, housing, public benefits, elder law and immigration issues in state and federal forums.

Patt Leikam, Yellowstone County Self-Help Law Center. Patt has been a founding advocate for the Self-Help Law Program and continues to work tirelessly in providing legal information and supporting self-represented litigants by providing available court forms.  The Court Help Program is a free service provided by the Montana Supreme Court to assist people with civil, non-criminal legal problems. Beginning in 2007 with Self Help Law Center (SHLC) in Yellowstone and Flathead counties, the Court Help Program has grown and now operates full time SHLCs in six counties as well as many Self Help stations and kiosks throughout the State of Montana. Patt stressed the need for a connection to and collaboration with trained and certified family designated mediators in regard to family law issues. And, certified mediators may be beneficial in landlord/tenant issues or early intervention of discord which may otherwise lead to policing or court intervention.

The panel was very informative and networking was wonderful. The food was delicious. One CLE was approved for this educational meeting. It truly was a wonderful way to spend our in person board meeting while meeting and learning from the members of the round table.