Mun. Court Mediator’s Testimony Inadmissible – State v. Williams

This afternoon’s New Jersey Supreme Court decision in State v. Williams relates to the confidentiality of statements made to a mediator during the course of a municipal court sponsored mediation session pursuant to Rule 1:40. In this case, the defendant sought to call the municipal court mediator who had attempted to resolve a municipal court case involving the defendant as a defense witness at a subsequent criminal trial in Superior Court.

The Supreme Court, in a 5 to 2 decision, ruled that the effectiveness of the mediation process in municipal court is based in large measure upon the confidentiality that the Rules of Court provide for the people involved in the process. In order to relax the Rule providing for this confidentiality (also known as the mediator’s privilege) the moving part must demonstrate that a.) the need for the substantially outweighs the interest in protecting the confidentiality and b.) the evidence is not otherwise available. This interpretation by the Court is in conformity with the recently enacted Uniform Mediation Act, NJSA 2A:23C-1 thru 13.

In the opinion, note the Court’s assertion that the right of confrontation is not absolute and the analysis of Rule 1:1-2 dealing with the relaxation of Court Rules.

Download copy of State v. Williams

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