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Alternative Dispute Resolution System News and Happenings
One Special Lady! By Phil Johnson, State Director In 1998, I pulled up to the side of the Capitol to pick up our guest speaker the Honorable Justice Alma Wilson. In a few minutes here came this petite lady out the door; I raced to open the passenger door to assist her into my car. We hit it off talking about our our hometowns and the various judges I worked with in Pauls Valley which was where she was a District Judge prior to becoming the First Lady on the Supreme Court of Oklahoma! Justice Wilson said, “Phil, I hear you studied to be a teacher and have a passion for working with young people.” She knew I enjoyed teaching students about mediation and the importance of making good decisions. She went on to say, “As I look back over my time as a judge I had so many young people come before me. If they were young people (17 years old or younger) and had broken the law I had some options to put them back on the right path, but if they had reached 18 my options were limited.” She began to weep and shared, “Phil, I can’t help from remembering the faces of the young people who were 18 that broke the law and I sentenced them to jail, and once they experienced being behind bars it changed their lives forever.” After drying her tears, she went on to say, “Phil, whatever you do please promise me you will keep teaching young people about civility, mediation, and making good decisions in life.” I’ll always cherish that visit! In 2020, I shared that story with Jari Askins, Director of the Courts, along with a proposal to establish a statewide peer mediation program. Director Askins said, “Let’s do this in honor of Justice Wilson.” The pieces to the puzzle began to come together with UCO agreeing to host the grant program and within a few months we had hired our first program Director. Today, schools statewide can request FREE peer mediation training for students. The training teaches students 4th grade and up about civility and making good choices. It gives them the skills necessary to deal with conflict in a constructive rather than destructive way at school but moreover in life! For more information click on this link: https://adrs.oscn.net/pros/ Legislative Blitz! Bailey Smith, OU Law Intern, and Andrew Aldridge, State Director, Peer Mediation Program, recently spent several days canvassing the Oklahoma State Capitol delivering informational packets to legislators. The packets were filled with information about the nationally recognized Early Settlement Mediation programs around the state and about the Peer Mediation Program located on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma. “This is the 3 rd year that we have distributed packets to our legislators in hopes that as constituents contact them with conflicts they will be able to refer them to the Early Settlement Program office in the area they serve. The response from legislators was very positive! Thank you to Bailey and Andrew for all their hard work,” said Phil Johnson, State Director, Alternative Dispute Resolution System. Early Settlement Staff! The Early Settlement Mediation Program Directors from across the state met recently in OKC for a meeting and then enjoyed a time of food and fellowship over lunch. Western Oklahoma! Stacy Horner, Director, Early Settlement Mediation – West Program, and Phil Johnson, State Director, Alternative Dispute Resolution System trained new volunteer mediators on the campus of SOSU in Weatherford Tuesday. It was a beautiful campus on a rainy day! Harold Davis, a 22 year volunteer for the Early Settlement -South Central program, retired as a volunteer mediator. He gave 4,818 volunteer hours mediating 1,505 cases! Harold has a settlement rate of 70% which is well over the national average. He has helped so many individuals in Southern Oklahoma settle their disputes in mediation, which in turn helps clear up the dockets for our Courts. Judges and local attorneys and court staff in Durant gathered for the celebration. Thank you Harold! OCU Law School! Professor Connie Smothermon invited Lauren O’Brien, Early Settlement -Oklahoma County Program Director, and Phil Johnson, State Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution System, to come speak to her law class today. The Early Settlement program works closely with OCU Law on providing externships for 2L-3L law students.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution System in Oklahoma is made up of
thirteen (13) regional Early Settlement Mediation Centers (including one (1) municipal program) which provide FREE mediation services all 77 counties in Oklahoma. There are fourteen (14) State Agencies with programs offering specialized mediation services. The Alternative Dispute Resolution System was authorized (1983) and funded (1985) by the state legislature through the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act, 12 O.S. Supp. 1997, § 1801 et seq. The Administrative Director of the Courts administers and supervises the Alternative Dispute Resolution System through a designated, State Director, with the ongoing input of the Dispute Resolution Advisory Board.