State dispute resolution program recruiting volunteer mediators


Oklahoma’s Early Settlement Mediation Program will offer a free 2-day training June 25 and 26 in the Altus/Lawton area for anyone who wishes to volunteer as a Mediator with the program. Early Settlement is administered by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma and serves residents in the southwestern part of the state including Jackson, Greer, Harmon and surrounding counties.

Early Settlement Southwest is designed to keep issues out of the court system as well as assist lawyers and the courts in resolving pending cases. Volunteer Mediators serve as impartial third parties who enter disputes with the consent of both parties. The mediator’s role is to assist the disputing parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution, a “win-win” situation for everyone.

Oklahoma’s Early Settlement Mediation Program handles disputes dealing with consumer concerns, landlord-tenant agreements, small claims and civil cases as well as divorce, child custody, visitation, guardianship and permanency matters. The program, which houses 12 mediation centers throughout the state, provides services to residents of Oklahoma at little or no cost.

The 2-day course serves as the first step in certifying new Volunteer Mediators to conduct mediation sessions under the authority of the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act of 1983 and the rules and procedures outlined by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. In addition to the training sessions, aspiring Volunteer Mediators must observe a number of actual mediations and work under the supervision of a certified mediator to settle disputes prior to being certified. Additional information is also available under Alternative Dispute Resolution/Early Settlement Mediation at www.oscn.net.

“This mediator training and volunteer experience provides a valuable opportunity for personal growth and satisfaction,” says Ralph Bauer, Program Director Early Settlement Southwest. “People often ask me why someone should volunteer as a mediator and this is what I tell them: Our mediators are like volunteer firefighter, we just put out fires of a different kind!” No specific pre-training or personal background is required to receive the training, but interested candidates should have good communication skills and the ability to maintain neutrality and confidentiality…along with willingness and commitment to volunteer a small portion of their time to help fellow citizens resolve conflicts. We encourage everyone to apply, especially bi-lingual individuals and people with flexible weekly schedules.”

Seating for the training is limited. Individuals interested in participating need contact the Early Settlement Mediation Southwest office at the Greer County Courthouse in Mangum to fill out an application no later than Monday, June 22. To participate or for more information call 1-800-7 SETTLE (773-8853) or 580-782-3127. Ralph Bauer can also be reached by calling or texting at 580-567-0315.

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