Our Mediation Philosophy
The Western District of Wisconsin offers court-sponsored mediation through its Clerk of Court, Peter Oppeneer, who is also a Part-Time Magistrate Judge. Magistrate Judge Oppeneer has worked with the court since 1987 and has acted as the court’s mediator since 2008. Participation in mediation is entirely voluntary and will not affect the progress or deadlines in your case. Of course, parties are free to pursue private mediation or direct negotiation at any time. Neither the presiding judge nor the referral magistrate judge in your case will be involved in mediation, and settlement letters and discussions in mediation will not be shared with them or any other party.
Mediation provides creative solutions to a variety of problems that might prevent speedy resolution during litigation. When communication between the parties is a barrier, or the interests of the parties are obscured by rigid legal positions or emotions, mediation may help to resolve the issues and open communication between the parties. The most important prerequisite to successful mediation is that all parties are genuinely interested in informal resolution and realistic good-faith negotiation. We are anxious to mediate when circumstances suggest that it makes sense, but have no interest in imposing an additional burden on parties who wish to proceed to trial.
Typically, the pretrial conference order in your case will require you to submit a confidential settlement letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, by a date several months before trial. Magistrate Judge Oppeneer may initiate contact with the attorneys to suggest mediation based on these letters or on other circumstances in the case file that suggest that mediation might be successful. Attorneys are also encouraged to call Magistrate Judge Oppeneer’s office at 608-261-5795 if they believe that mediation would be productive at any point in the case, before or after submission of the letters. This might be especially useful when attorneys believe that early mediation could successfully avoid discovery or trial preparation costs.
Confidentiality and Ethics
Communications made during the mediation process are confidential and will not be used at trial or shared with the court or other parties, except as specifically authorized or as permitted by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Any party that feels a mediator has violated confidential or ethical standards is encouraged to submit a written statement to the Chief Judge, with copies to the mediator and all parties. The Chief Judge will review the matter and take appropriate action. The mediator will notify the parties of any conflict of interest and will assist in the selection of an alternative mediator. If a party believes there is a conflict of interest, the party should notify the mediator and the parties so that an alternate mediator may be found.