Maryland REALTORS® Mediation Program
Agreement to Mediation & Confidentiality
- The parties agree to try to resolve this case through Video/Teleconferencing with the established “Online Mediation Protocols” used by the Maryland REALTORS® Mediation Program, attached to this Agreement and made a part of this Agreement.
- The parties understand that settlement during mediation is entirely voluntary.
- The parties understand that the Mediator has no power to decide who wins or loses this case and will not express an opinion on who is right or wrong. Rather, the Mediator is going to try to help the parties reach their own resolution of this case by facilitating the discussion. Consistent with State law, the Mediator has read and will abide by the Maryland Standard of Conduct for Mediators during the mediation.
- The parties understand that the Mediator is not going to act as an advocate or attorney for any participant and that each party has the right to have a representative during mediation.
- The parties agree that all mediation conference communications are strictly confidential and understand that the purpose of mediation is to explore whether the parties can reach a resolution, not to gather information for a hearing or trial. The parties agree not to subpoena the Mediator or any observer to testify about what was said in mediation.
- The Mediator and all parties to the mediation process agree not to voluntarily testify on behalf of any party and will not report anything said during this mediation UNLESS one of the participants makes a genuine threat of physical harm, or a report of criminal activity or is otherwise required under Maryland law to report a communication made during this mediation.
- The mediation session will not be recorded by anyone (either video or audio) and no transcription of the session will be produced.
- The parties understand that any documents prepared for or during mediation (such as case summaries presented to the Mediator or notes taken by the Mediator) are for settlement purposes only and may not be subpoenaed for, or used in, a hearing or trial.
- The parties understand that no participant will be bound by anything said or done in mediation, unless and until there is a written settlement agreement.
DISCLOSURE: If this box is checked, the Mediator is an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland, however the Mediator shall in no event act as an attorney representing any Mediating Party.
ONLINE MEDIATION PROTOCOLS
(July 1, 2020)
- Online Platform: Zoom. We will use the online secure platform provided by Zoom.us to conduct your online mediation sessions. We have elected to use Zoom because it uses encryption for security and confidentiality that is at least as secure as is used for most emails. Before your first scheduled mediation session, you agree to download and install the software and/or apps from Zoom necessary for your participation in the online mediation sessions. You will only need to download the free Personal Use Plan software and/or app and open a free personal account. Once you have downloaded Zoom, you agree to familiarize yourself with the operation of the platform so that you are able to operate the system and participate in your mediation sessions. Zoom has tutorials available at https://support.zoom.us.
You understand that no video conferencing platform is completely secure. You have made your own inquiry as to the suitability and adequacy of Zoom for use in this mediation and of any risks in using Zoom, including any risks concerning its security, privacy or confidentiality, and consent to the use of Zoom. Dispute resolution is based on the trust and honesty of the participants. If any participant breaches this trust, the process fails. Success using online mediation, like all mediations, depends on all participants entering into mediation in good faith and with a desire to transparently resolve all issues.
- Document Execution. If needed, we will use Docusign.com as a secure platform for the execution of documents required during your mediation process (more information can be found at www.docusign.com). In the event that original signatures are required or preferred, then copies for execution will be transmitted to you for printing and signing and you will be responsible for returning the executed copies to the mediator via mail or overnight delivery service.
- Secure WiFi or Ethernet Connection. You will need a secure WiFi or Ethernet (hard-wired) connection for your computer. Test the speed and dependability of your connection BEFORE your mediation by hosting a Zoom meeting by yourself or with another video conferencing platform. DO NOT use a public access WiFi connection, such as those available in public spaces and businesses and they are not secure and your information may be at risk in that situation. Due to the size of the viewing screen, a laptop or desktop computer are preferable to a Smartphone.
- Technology Failure Protocol. You understand that despite our best efforts, technology may fail to operate properly and a mediation session may not start on time or may be interrupted. If that happens, please take the following steps:
- Log out of Zoom and log back in. This often re-establishes the connection.
- Call or text the mediator immediately to let me know you are having trouble.
- Conference call: In the event that we cannot convene the mediation via Zoom, the mediator will issue instructions for participants to join a conference call.
- d. If a conference call is not feasible, the mediation will be canceled and rescheduled as soon as possible.
- Caucus Failure Protocol. At times it may be beneficial for your mediator to caucus with you each separately. The Zoom online platform allows the mediator to break parties into separate rooms and caucus with another. You agree that if you are able to hear communications with others that are not intended for you to overhear, you will IMMEDIATELY terminate the Zoom online mediation session and will call or text the mediator.
- Privacy and Confidentiality. Only the people who have executed the Agreement to Mediation & Confidentiality may participate in the mediation. You must confirm that you are alone in the room and that you cannot be overheard by anyone else around you. All participants and attendees in this mediation, including every person who may participate by telephone, video, e-mail, text, or other means, agree that all communications related to the mediation, and all negotiations and settlement discussions, communicated in any medium, are private and confidential. Mediation is a voluntary process for settlement negotiation that begins upon first communication with the mediator regarding possible retention in the matter and shall cease when the parties sign a written settlement agreement or one or more parties elect to terminate mediation.
- Absolute Prohibition on Recording. You, or anyone on your behalf, shall NOT audio or video record, or take pictures or screen capture the mediation session or portion thereof. In the event that you learn of an audio or video recording of any session, you shall take immediate measures to destroy the recording and will not disseminate the recording to anyone, or if you are unable to do so, you shall immediately notify the mediator. You further agree that you will not transmit a live or deferred video or audio relay of the online mediation sessions to anyone.
- Meeting Invitations and Passwords. You understand that access to the online mediation will be password protected. You will be provided with a meeting invitation and a password before the scheduled mediation. You agree that you will not disclose or share the meeting invitation or password with anyone else.
- Zoom “chats.” To maintain confidentiality, you understand that the mediator may disable the chat function in Zoom.
- “Locking” the Mediation. You acknowledge that once all attendees have appeared in the platform and the mediator can “lock” the mediation, no one else can be admitted. Therefore, if you lose connection, you cannot be readmitted. If that happens, call the mediator. The mediator will end the meeting and all participants will log back in or the mediator will issue a new meeting and password.
Best Practices and Troubleshooting
- Interruption Free Zone. You agree to take all reasonable measures to ensure that you are not interrupted during your online mediation sessions. This includes arranging for appropriate child care, notifying family and friends of your unavailability and making appropriate scheduling choices.
- Technology Hiatus. Except for the computer or mobile device upon which you are conducting your online mediation session, you agree to turn off or put on silent any phones, tablets or computers and disable any alert announcements and/or texts for the duration of your online mediation sessions. Further, you agree to refrain from the use of social media, email and/or internet search engines, other than as may be necessary to conduct the session, during your online mediation sessions.
- Early Log On. Whenever possible, log on to the scheduled mediation session no less than 5 minutes in advance of the scheduled start time so that any technology issues can be resolved and your mediation session can start on time.
- Waiting Room. In order to preserve the neutrality of your mediator under all circumstances, you will enter the meeting each time you log on in a “virtual waiting room” until all parties have arrived. Once all parties are logged on and in the waiting room, you will be admitted into the meeting by your mediator.
- Respectful Online Communication. Due to the nature of the online forum, it is especially important to allow each participant to finish their comments or statements before responding. The audio portion of the technology will only allow one person to talk at a time. In addition, the online format can amplify and exaggerate sound so maintaining a regular speaking voice is important. Finally, please remember that the camera does not always transmit hand gestures or non-verbal cues, so it is important to verbalize all communication during an online mediation session.
OM Services is a service company offering Ombuds and Mediation Services.
OM Services does not provide legal advice and its services are not the substitute
for advice from a licensed attorney.
OM Services August 2021