ASSOCIATION OF ATTORNEY-MEDIATORS GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE
The Association of Attorney-Mediators (AAM) adopts this Grievance Procedure to allow users of the mediation process to file a complaint with AAM regarding an alleged violation of the AAM’s Ethical Guidelines by an AAM member. Any such complaint must be received by AAM within ninety days of the alleged violation.
AAM shall publish this Grievance Procedure on its website and, upon written request, shall send a copy of it to any person who represents that he or she has received mediation services from an AAM member.
The components of the Grievance Procedure are as follows:
AAM shall have one or more Grievance Panels that will consist of three (3) members in good standing who have been members of AAM for at least three years. Members of each Grievance Panel shall be appointed by the President of AAM with the approval of the National Board of Directors. If at the time a Complaint is filed there is no sitting Grievance Panel, or none which may conveniently or properly consider the Complaint, the President of AAM shall promptly appoint a Grievance Panel to consider the Complaint. No member appointed to a Grievance Panel shall serve on a Panel considering any Complaint if such service would give rise to a conflict of interest. Grievance Panels are AAM Committees to which membership suspension and expulsion powers are herein delegated by the Board of Directors under Article 4.5 of the AAM bylaws.
- Representation by Counsel.
A Complainant and the Mediator may be represented by counsel in any or all phases of the Grievance Procedure.
- Initiation of the Grievance.
A grievance is initiated when a written complaint (the Complaint) describing the alleged violation of AAM’s Ethical Guidelines, signed by the Complainant, is received by AAM.
- Time for Filing.
A Complaint against an AAM Mediator must be received by the AAM office within ninety days of the occurrence forming the basis of the grievance. The Executive Director of AAM shall immediately forward a copy of the Complaint to AAM's President and Secretary. Untimely Complaints will be dismissed, and the Secretary of the AAM shall promptly notify the Complainant of the dismissal of the Complaint. AAM's President shall determine whether a Grievance Panel should be appointed to hear the Complaint and shall promptly appoint a Grievance Panel, if necessary.
Contents of the Complaint.
- The Complaint shall state the specific Ethical Guideline(s) alleged to have been violated and the date on which the alleged violation occurred. In the absence of such statement the Complaint shall be dismissed and the Secretary of the AAM shall promptly notify the Complainant of the dismissal of the Complaint.
- The Complaint shall also identify participants in the mediation and, if known, their addresses.
- The Complaint shall contain these statements:
This is a Complaint under the AAM Grievance Procedure. I acknowledge by filing this Complaint I am waiving confidentiality for purposes of the AAM Grievance Procedure. I further agree that no findings in this Procedure may be used as evidence in any other procedure or hearing.
Any Complaint that does not include the above statements will be dismissed, and the Secretary of the AAM shall promptly notify the Complainant of the dismissal of the Complaint. The Complainant may reinstate the Complaint by filing a complaint containing such statements within ten (10) days of receipt of the notice of dismissal.
- The Complainant may not seek any money damages or any other individual relief. Any Complaint seeking such relief will be dismissed and the Secretary of the AAM shall promptly notify the Complainant of the dismissal of the Complaint.
- The Complaint shall include an address at which the Complainant will receive correspondence concerning the Complaint.
Service of the Complaint and Other Documents.
- The Complaint shall be sent certified mail, return receipt requested to AAM at P. O. Box 741955, Dallas, Texas 75374-1955. Within seven working days, AAM shall forward a copy of the Complaint to the Mediator at his or her current office address. The AAM shall notify the Complainant when the Complaint is served on the mediator.
- All subsequent correspondence concerning a Complaint may be sent by first class or certified mail, return receipt requested, by private courier, facsimile, or electronic mail, unless otherwise expressly stated in this Grievance Procedure.
Processing of the Complaint.
- Subject to paragraph 6.N. below, the Mediator shall have thirty days to respond to the Complaint, by sending the response to AAM. AAM shall forward the Mediator's response to the Complainant within seven days of receipt of the response.
- The Complainant may reply to the Mediator’s response within seven days of Complainant’s receipt of the response by sending the reply to AAM.
- The Mediator may respond to the Complainant’s reply within seven days after receipt of the reply, by filing a response with AAM.
- Within seven (7) days after the later of (i) receipt of the last response, or (ii) time for receiving same has passed, AAM’s office shall send the Complaint and all replies and responses associated therewith to the members of the Grievance Panel. Within seven (7) days of receipt of the Complaint and associated documents, the Chair of the Grievance Panel shall send a request for a waiver of confidentiality to all participants in the mediation in question other than the Mediator and the Complainant.
- The request for waiver of confidentiality shall be limited to the grievance process, and the participants shall be advised that the confidentiality of the mediation shall otherwise remain intact. If all participants have not returned signed waivers within fourteen days of the date the request(s) were sent by the Chair of the Grievance Panel, the Secretary shall notify the Complainant that no further action will be taken on the grievance because one or more parties to the mediation declined to waive confidentiality. The Secretary shall also advise the Complainant that he or she, within seven (7) days of notification, may appeal the dismissal of the Complaint for this reason to the Grievance Panel. If the Panel, on appeal, determines that it may properly review the alleged misconduct of the Mediator without a violation of confidentiality, it shall proceed with its investigation of the Complaint as though waivers had been obtained from all parties. If the Panel concludes that it cannot investigate the Complaint without violating confidentiality, it shall dismiss the Complaint and the Secretary will advise Complainant of the dismissal of the Complaint on appeal.
- If all waivers of confidentiality are received by the Grievance Panel, the Grievance Panel shall then determine what further action is appropriate.
- The Grievance Panel may dismiss the Complaint or impose sanctions on the Mediator without a hearing if the Panel determines that the Complaint and associated documents provide sufficient information for it to make a determination.
- If the Grievance Panel does not take action as authorized by paragraph 6.G. above, it shall schedule a hearing to adjudicate the Complaint. The Panel shall determine whether the hearing shall be in the form of a mediation, or other procedure deemed appropriate. The hearing shall be private and confidential and no recording of the hearing process shall be allowed.
The Panel shall notify the Complainant and the Mediator in writing of any hearing and the time, date and place of any scheduled hearing within sixty (60) days of the receipt of the waivers of confidentiality.
- If the Grievance Panel schedules an adversarial hearing to adjudicate the Complaint, the Complainant shall have the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Mediator has violated AAM’s Ethical Guidelines. Either party may present evidence, including testimony by witnesses, at a hearing to adjudicate the Complaint.
- The Grievance Panel shall not have subpoena power to require attendance of persons at any hearing.
- The Complainant and the Mediator may agree in writing to extend any one or more time periods set forth in this Grievance Procedure and, if they so agree, they shall promptly submit their signed extension agreement to AAM. Either the Complainant or the Mediator may submit to the Grievance Panel (with copies to the other party) a written request to extend any period of time set forth in this Procedure, and upon receipt of the written request, the Grievance Panel may grant, deny or otherwise act upon the request and shall promptly notify the parties in writing of the Panel’s action.
- If the Complainant fails to appear at any hearing for the purpose of adjudicating the Complaint, it shall be promptly dismissed and the Grievance Panel, or its designee, shall so advise the Complainant.
- If the Mediator fails to appear at any hearing scheduled for the purpose of adjudicating the complaint, the Grievance Panel shall impose on the Mediator any of the sanctions specified in paragraph 7.B. below, as warranted by the clear and convincing evidence, or dismiss the Complaint if it is not supported by clear and convincing evidence.
- If the AAM’s professional liability insurance carrier requires the Mediator to remain silent regarding any alleged violation, no action shall be taken on the Complaint until the insurance carrier releases the Mediator to defend against the Complaint. In the event the insurance carrier does not release the Mediator to respond to the Complaint, the Grievance Panel shall proceed with the adjudication of the Complaint as authorized by paragraph 6.D. above, and succeeding paragraphs.
Actions of the Grievance Panel.
- Any decision by the Grievance Panel, as a result of a hearing or otherwise, must be unanimous or no action may be taken and the Complaint will be dismissed.
- If the Grievance Panel finds that a Mediator has violated AAM’s Ethical Guidelines, the Grievance Panel may impose sanctions on the Mediator in its discretion, as follows:
- Private reprimand;
- Public reprimand (published in the AAM newsletter);
- Probation (which may be conditioned upon completion of pro bono mediation work or continuing mediation training);
- Suspension of membership for a specified period of time; or
- Permanent expulsion.
- As soon as practicable after a hearing to adjudicate the Complaint, the Grievance Panel shall notify the Complainant and the Mediator of its findings and decision. All grievances shall remain confidential unless otherwise stated herein.
- Appeal to Board of Directors.
- Upon receipt of a decision by the Grievance Panel, the Complainant and/or the Mediator may file a written appeal to the National Board of Directors of AAM. The appeal shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested to AAM at P. O. Box 741955, Dallas, Texas 75374-1955.
- The written appeal must be received by the AAM office within ten (10) days of the receipt of the decision by the appealing party.
The decision of the National Board of Directors of AAM shall be final.