Mediators face dilemmas like this every day.
Learning to recognize whether a dilemma rises to
the level of an ethical problem, and if so reflecting on
what our ethical obligations require of us, is part of
how we improve our mediation practice skills.
When confronting ethical problems, mediators
can consult published resources, such as the Model
Standards of Conduct for Mediators, promulgated
by ACR, the American Bar Association and the
American Arbitration Association (revised 2005),
the Model Standards of Practice for Family and
Divorce Mediation, or the ACR Ethical Principles and
Recommended Standards for School-based Peer
Mediation. But we also can address questions to the
ACR Ethics Committee.
The Committee’s purpose is to promote and educate
practitioners and the public about the ethical prac-
tice of conflict resolution, and to review and
address ethics complaints. At the request
of ACR members, the Committee also pro-
vides advisory opinions based on existing
applicable mediator standards. Depending
upon the facts presented, the Committee may pro-
vide its own opinion, endorse an opinion from another
organization, or jointly issue an opinion with another
organization, such as the ABA Section of Dispute Res-
olution Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance or
the ABA Section on Family Law’s Model Standards of
Practice for Family and Divorce Mediation.
Advisory opinions benefit practitioners by providing
tools that help them determine the questions to
ask and the analysis to consider when a dilemma is
encountered. Access to opinions provides mediators
with the added benefit of being able to anticipate or
reflect upon what to do in a dilemma before having to
make a quick decision “in the heat of the moment”
with potentially significant impact on the mediation
In general, the Committee’s advisory opinions
focus on a specific set of facts and specific questions
posed by the member, and consider specific courses
of action available in those particular circumstances.
In addition, advisory opinions do not address best
practices but only whether the applicable ethical
standards require or prohibit a particular action.
Using ACR’s Ethics Resources to
Inform and Enhance Your Practice
About the Author
serves as Deputy
Chair of the Mediator Ethics Advisory
Committee at the
NYS Office of Alternative Dispute
She is the Immediate Past President
of the Association
for Conflict Resolution’s Greater New
York Chapter, and
member of the ACR
Sheila M. Sproule, J.D.
You are mediating a business dispute between two investors, Susan and Doug. During a
private session, Susan reveals new financial information that she has been withholding
from the discussion. When you ask Susan if she plans on sharing this information in
joint session, she reveals that she does not. You are extremely concerned that the
parties’ impending agreement will leave Doug in a vulnerable financial position, and
that Doug needs to know about this information in order to make a fully informed
decision. The parties have adamantly refused to include other consultants or advisors
to assist in this matter. What should you do?