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Bill Introduced in Maryland to Keep Private Mediations Confidential

March 6, 2012

A new bill was considered in Maryland this past Tuesday that would allow private mediation proceedings to have a guarantee of confidentiality.

The current law in Maryland guarantees confidentiality only within court-ordered mediation. Those who proposed this new bill wish to have formal laws that explicitly state that this guarantee applies also to private mediation. As Roger Wolf of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law states,

“Currently the confidentiality of private mediation is often presumed but not guaranteed under Maryland Law. A judge would have authority to compel a private mediator’s testimony if the case went to trial. The legislation would bring certainty in an area where there is uncertainty.”

The bill, The Maryland Confidentiality Act (Senate Bill 865), would effectively forbid discussions, including admissions and apologies, that are made during private mediation sessions from being revealed in the courtroom. The only exception is information that poses a threat to someone’s health or safety if not disclosed, which is left up to the judge’s discretion.

No one testified against the bill during the committee hearing. Veteran mediator, Stephen E. Moss, however, expressed his concern with a provision that would define a mediator as someone “who had completed at least 40 hours of mediation training.” Moss also stated that,

“An unhappy party might argue that the mediation was not covered by the confidentiality provision because the mediator lacked the requisite training…This [40-hour requirement] is making this a bad bill. Somebody is going to litigate this issue. There can be a danger. We have to have some kind of standard here.”

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jamin B. Raskin, responded that,

“Lawyers may be mediators, even without the training, thus creating a bright-line standard.”

We will be sure to keep you posted on the status of this bill. If you have any experience working with private or public mediators in Maryland and would like to write a review on their work, please visit our directory of Maryland mediators here. To read the complete article in The Daily Record, please click here.

Lash, Steve. Bill Would Add Private-Mediator Privilege The Daily Record. February 28, 2012.

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