Nevada County, California – 2/12/11 Audit Ordered in Response to Court Mediator’s Claims

 

From TheUnion.com :

Audit ordered in response to court mediator’s claims

February 12, 2011
by Brian Hamilton
 
A former Nevada County Family Court Services mediator has prevailed in a grievance against Nevada County Superior Court, which will prompt an independent audit of the county Department of Family Court Services.

Emily Gallup, a Nevada City resident, had claimed that Family Court Services violated state statutes and rules of court governing the mediation process.

An arbitrator ruled Feb. 6 Gallup should be awarded back pay and attorney fees from the court, after finding the court had violated its own “open door policy.”

Christopher D. Burdick, an arbitrator and attorney-at-law, was selected by both parties from a list of arbitrators from the California State Conciliation and Mediation Service.

Gallup said Friday that her supervisors allegedly did not afford her ample time to mediate custody cases and did not allow her to consider relevant information, including criminal background checks.

Nevada County Superior Court officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Family Court mediators are required by law to guide parents into reasonable custody arrangements that protect children’s best interests.

Mediators in Nevada County are charged with the task of making child custody recommendations to the court in the absence of parental agreement. These recommendations carry great weight with the court, and are usually ordered.

“It depends from case to case, but some cases are infinitely more complicated than others,” Gallup said. “One might require only an hour, but others might take up to five hours.”

Gallup, and her attorney M. Catherine Jones of Nevada City, said after she raised such issues, court officials retaliated against her.

When Gallup sought out a code stating that criminal background checks were permissible in mediations, Jones said that’s when Gallup’s work relationship with her supervisors seemed to sour.

“They gave her poor performance evaluations and put her on a performance improvement plan,” Jones said.

Burdick ruled Gallup shall receive back pay and attorney fees from the Nevada County Superior Court. He also ordered an independent audit to review the court’s family law mediation programs.

Ten days after its completion, the audit’s findings must be made public.

To contact City Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail at bhamilton@theunion.com or call 477-4249.

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