Neither judge nor jury: Norms and the role of mediators in court-referred mediations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Doris Marie Provine


Norms, Mediators, Court-referred mediations, Conflict resolution

Subject Categories

Law | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


This is a qualitative study of volunteer community mediators, court-referred mediations, and what it means to practice community mediation in the New York State Community Dispute Resolution Centers Programs (CDRCP). Three main findings emerged from this study. First, one way that the mediators constructed their role (and relationship to the parties) was as teacher. This construction was more salient for these mediators than "neutrality" or "impartiality." Second, what the mediators believed that they were teaching the parties were norms of legality and constructive conflict resolution. And third, mediators used their authority as "teacher" and norms of constructive conflict behavior to delimit the boundaries of the negotiation and pressure the parties toward settlement, thereby participating in the negotiation of the substance, as well as the process.

The mediators' construction of their role as "teacher"--and the accompanying construction of the disputants as pupils--was used to legitimate their more forceful interventions that delimited the boundaries of the mediation. The mediation practices shown here were, therefore, not merely process tools where the parties negotiated the content and the mediators facilitated the process. It is best described as a process of joint participation by the mediators and the parties in both the process and the content of the session that is bounded by norms of legality and constructive conflict resolution. The ideology of mediation, combined with the pressure to get agreements, makes these practices logical.


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