Tragic and scary news story today about an attorney who was shot at a mediation in Phoenix. According to the media, the mediation was ending when the client went to his car to get something. After a lengthy wait, the mediation participants began to leave and apparently met the client in the hall where he began shooting. Apparently, the dispute involved a claim of about $20,000. According to one source, the shooter had been sued to return money he had received to refurbish office cubicles. The company claimed they subsequently learned the cubicles could not be refurbished, and they requested return of the money. Apparently, that did not sit well. Or, perhaps something happened during mediation to really aggravate the shooter.
Mediation is a process of conflict resolution. Force is not a technique embraced by mediators. Listening, understanding perspectives, probing priorities, providing guidance, and discussing the likely outcome in court are some of the techniques mediators use to resolve disputes. I have had a mediation or two where I was concerned about clients packing weapons. After all, I live in the West where guns are not only available, but welcome. In some rural communities, guns are standard fare in the windows of the pick up trucks. One city in Utah is trying to mandate gun ownership.
In the past, I have asked clients if they are packing a weapon. If they are, I ask them to take it to their car. Emotions run too high in mediation to take a chance. But, the question is whether anyone really knows that a person is packing a weapon. Should we install metal detectors in our offices? Should we schedule potentially high conflict mediations at the courthouse, so everyone goes through security?