1. Basis for the ACM Program. In an effort to reduce conflicts and improve communication between the client and the attorney, the Supreme Court of Ohio has authorized Certified Grievance Committees to establish procedures to address areas of client dissatisfaction that are not volations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline has established three different categories of disputes that are eligible for referral to mediation:
A. Failure to adequately communicate with client or to inform the client of progress of legal matters, including without limitation, missed appointments, conferences or unreturned telephone calls;
B. Inactivity on a case, short of neglect; attorney lack of diligence or a failure to provide the client with updated information; or
C. A failure to timely return client files or documents; an attorney unilaterally asserting a retaining lien on client files or documents.
2. Referral to ACM. After initial screening, matters eligible may be referred to the Toledo Bar Association Attorney-Client Mediation (ACM) Program Committee for processing. Bar Counsel will select a mediator who is a member of the Attorney-Client Mediation Committee. The mediator shall not have any conflict or relationship to the dispute in question. The mediator shall, to the extent available, have knowledge of the area of law involved in the dispute. The Bar Counsel will also consider any other special quality that may assist in the mediation process. The Bar Counsel will contact the chosen mediator. If the mediator accepts the assignment, the Bar Counsel will inform the grievant and the attorney of the appointment of the mediator.
3. Objections to mediator. Either party will have 5 days within which to lodge an objection to the mediator appointment. If no objection is entered, the mediator will contact the parties to schedule the appropriate mediation. Any objection to a mediator appointment shall be placed in writing with the Bar Counsel. If an objection by either party is presented, the Bar Counsel shall decide whether the objection is appropriate. If the objection is upheld, a new mediator will be selected. If an objection is denied, the grievant and the attorney will be notified and the chosen mediator will contact all parties to schedule the mediation.
4. Scheduling the conference. The chosen mediator will make initial contact with the grievant and the respondent by phone, fax or letter. The mediator shall establish a time and place for the mediation conference. The grievance shall be scheduled for mediation at a date and time convenient with the grievant and the respondent attorney. The mediation shall be held in accordance with these rules. The chosen mediator may require written statements by the participants. If written statements are required, the parties will decide as to whether the position statements will be exchanged between the parties or whether the statements will be submitted to the mediator ex parte. Further, the chosen mediator will decide if third parties will be allowed to participate. The mediator shall make all reasonable efforts to gain cooperation of all parties involved.
5. Failure to cooperate. If mediation does not proceed due to the failure of the respondent attorney to cooperate, the nature and extent of non-cooperation will be reported to Bar Counsel. Bar Counsel shall bring any instance of non-cooperation to the attention of the Toledo Bar Association Certified Grievance Committee or the screening subcommittee for a potential violation of non-cooperation pursuant to Rule V(4)(G) of the Rules for the Government of the Bar. Any non-cooperation of the grievant will be reported to Bar Counsel. If the grievant does not cooperate, the mediation shall be identified as unsuccessful due to failure of the grievant to cooperate and the grievance shall be dismissed.
6. Code violations. If, during the mediation process, or during the course of mediation proceedings, the chosen mediator receives information suggesting that a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility has occurred, the mediator shall immediately terminate the mediation. The matter shall be returned to Bar Counsel. Bar Counsel will refer the matter to the Grievance Investigation Subcommittee of the Toledo Bar Association Certified Grievance Committee. In so doing, the mediator will maintain strict confidentiality and will not reveal any information regarding the substance of the attempted mediation.
7. Confidentiality. With the exception of statistical reporting requirements mandated under the Rules for the Government of the Bar, all information received by a mediator in the course of conducting a mediation is deemed to be privileged and confidential under the Rules for the Government of the Bar. The mediator will not be asked to reveal any confidential information or to provide any documents regarding the substance of any mediation held. Any knowledge obtained by the mediator shall be privileged for all purposes under DR 1-103 so long as the knowledge was obtained while the mediator was acting as mediator.
8. Effect of mediation. The results of mediation are binding. The results may not be appealed. At the conclusion of the mediation process, the mediator shall be responsible for drafting an agreement memorializing the mediation result. All parties to the mediation shall sign the agreement and a copy shall be given to the grievant and to the respondent lawyer.
9. Reporting of results. The mediator will report the results of the mediation to the Bar Counsel. If mediation fails, the matter shall be referred to Bar Counsel who shall refer the matter to the screening subcommittee for determination as to further proceedings. At the conclusion of the ADR process, a grievant may not bring the matter back into the grievance process.
Contact the Toledo Bar Association Grievance Department