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Elevating Small Claims Mediation in the 7th Judicial District

08/31/2022 10:37 PM | Leigh Barer (Administrator)


by Jennifer L. Neerman, CPM
Small Claims Mediation Coordinator, 7th Judicial District

The Idaho 7th Judicial District has remarkable people involved with the Small Claims Mediation Program. We have a Judge who has mastered the art of building confidence in the courtroom prior to mediation, spectacular court clerks who expeditiously prepare the mediators, and a group of mediators who have taken their volunteer position to an extraordinary level of excellence.

On the mornings of Small Claims Court, Judge Jason Walker gives an overview of how small claims court functions and why it is important for the litigants and the community to mediate, in good faith, to settle their cases before court. He introduces the mediators, gives a brief bio on each mediator, then sends everyone off to mediation. Judge Walker builds confidence in everyone by doing this. Mediation is very successful in the 7th Judicial District, with very few cases returning to court for noncompliance.

Court clerks in the 7th Judicial District are an integral part of the mediation process. They provide the mediators with the claim, answer, and supporting documents in advance so the mediators have everything they need to facilitate the mediation. Clerks Nicole McGary's and Heather Cronquist's desks are very busy, and they go above and beyond to support the Small Claims Mediation Program and do an excellent job.

Finally, let's look at our current eclectic team of volunteer mediators. Our mediators are outstanding! They come from all walks of life. We have attorneys, professors, public health officials, students, professional mediators, fishermen, probation officers, and artists. They show up to serve our communities and courts, and really make a difference. Here are highlights of who our mediators are:

David Pulsipher has been a professor of history at BYU- Idaho for over two decades. He earned a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota and currently specializes in conflict and peace theory. He has also served as a visiting professor and Fulbright scholar in India. He lives in Rexburg, Idaho, and loves to spend time along rivers and mountains. David also serves as a rental dispute mediator for BYU-Idaho student housing.

Scott D. Brand is a conflict resolution specialist and certified professional mediator. Additionally, Scott is a listed mediator for the Idaho Supreme Court and the Nevada Supreme Court. He is a member of the Grand Teton Mediation Association and a board member for the Idaho Mediation Association. Scott loves helping people reach solutions personalized to meet their needs and live a life with less conflict and more peace. Helping people choose outcomes rather than having solutions decided for them by a judge or another third party is what motivates Scott to help those in dealing with conflict. Self-determination is a strong value to Scott and one which he wants to share with others to help them live a better life. A graduate of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, Scott holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration. He specializes in mediating child custody, divorce, domestic dispute, eviction, and small claims issues. When he's not mediating conflict and helping clients choose their own solutions, Scott revels in outdoor adventures and is an avid mountain biker, backpacker, river runner, lifelong learner, and adventurer.

J. Michael (Mike) Wheiler graduated from Utah State University in 1981 with a degree in history and English. He taught for one year at Preston Junior High School before attending and graduating from the University of Idaho College of Law. Mike has been a trial attorney for over 30 years and has assisted clients with a wide variety of issues. In his capacity as an attorney, he has participated in hundreds of mediations. He recently attended the Northwest Institute for Dispute Resolution Civil Mediation course at the University of Idaho. Mike works at the law firm of Thomsen Holman Wheiler, PLLC, in Idaho Falls. Mike currently serves as vice president of the Grand Teton Mediation Association.

Melissa Bishop has a Bachelor of Science from Boise State in criminal justice correction. She is a former probation officer and is now a domestic violence direct supervisor. She is an excellent mediator, and we are grateful to have her serve our district all the way from Boise.

Kellye Johnson has 25+ years working in the Environmental Health Division at Eastern Idaho Public Health. She started as an environmental health specialist trainee, working during the summer months in Fremont County (mostly in beautiful Island Park) while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Idaho in industrial technologies with an emphasis in solid waste management. For the last 20 years, she has worked as the environmental Health Administrator. The Mission of Environmental Health is to ensure the public is protected from environmental factors that threaten their surroundings and quality of life. She works hard every day to make the mission of Environmental Health a reality for her family and hopefully for generations to come.

Kelly Faley is a junior at BYU-Idaho and is studying political science with an emphasis In foreign attars and a minor in peace and conflict transformation. She is a trained mediator who is ready to practice and build her career in conflict resolution. She loves music and plays the trumpet in the University Band.

Judge Walker says, "The mediators are the backbone of our success. I love our mediators' commitment to creative problem-solving. They work extremely hard and resolve some really challenging cases. These are cases that would undoubtedly recirculate again and again in the court system but for their efforts. Please continue to express my gratitude to them for the service they provide to the community."

We lost a fair number of our first-generation mediators when COVID struck, and we were forced into video conferencing, but the silver lining was the ability to use utilize mediators from across the state. Now, as we slowly transition back to in-person mediation we are looking forward to positive changes.

We have abounding gratitude for Judge Walker, the court clerks and our volunteer mediators!

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