On a brisk, sunny morning in April, dozens of people crowd into the tiny Second Session courtroom at Quincy District Court. Some are represented by lawyers, but most are not. They are here because they are parties in Harassment Prevention Order (HPO) cases. Some are asking the judge for an order to stem the tide of animosity between neighbors that has been festering for years while others are asking the judge for an order to prevent former friends and/or family members from harassing them at their homes, places of work, or on social media. Because HPO cases almost always involve complex personal relationships and high emotions, they are some of the most difficult cases for judges to handle.
Today, though, the judge has a unique option at his disposal to assist parties seeking an HPO. Sitting at the edge of the courtroom are two student mediators from the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP). They are here as part of the court’s HPO mediation pilot program. As the judge works his way down this morning’s docket, he selects cases that look like they might be better resolved through mediation than by a ruling from the bench. The mediators and parties go to a private conference room next to the courtroom, where the mediators use their skills to facilitate a discussion between the parties and help them arrive at a resolution to their dispute based on mutual consent.
Read more on the Harvard Law School website.