Mediation vs Arbitration: What’s the Difference?

traverse city mediation arbitration traverse city

Like other professionals, lawyers sometimes fall into the trap of using jargon when communicating with non-lawyers. Common words like “complaint” or “discovery” can have very different meanings in a legal context; Latin expressions abound. For that reason, it’s crucial for attorneys to communicate clearly with their clients, in “plain English,” to ensure that the client understands the legal process and can make informed decisions.

A recurring misunderstanding involves two alternatives to the more “traditional” courtroom method of resolving disputes through a trial: the processes of mediation and arbitration.

Although similar in sound, these two processes are distinctly different. Arbitration resembles a court process where the “parties” present their cases to one or more decision-makers (the arbitrator, or a panel of them). After hearing the testimony and reviewing the evidence, the arbitrator has the power to issue a legally-binding decision.

In contrast, mediation is a less formal process that does not feature a judge-like figure. Instead, mediation can be better described as an intense negotiation process. The parties (and their attorneys, if any) meet in a private setting and confidentially negotiate a resolution to their issues. The mediator acts as a neutral third-party, helping the parties find common ground and construct a settlement agreement that is binding and enforceable by the court system. The mediator does not make any decisions; the only decision-makers are the parties themselves, and they all must agree. If no agreement is reached, the mediation is declared unsuccessful, and the case (presumably) heads to the courtroom. Ultimately the parties have a lot more control over the outcome of a mediation than over an arbitration.

Changes in Drone Registration Requirements

Do you fly a drone, or a model aircraft? If your answer is “yes” (both), you no longer have to register it in order to fly.

Last month, the D.C. Circuit (District of Columbia, not Marvel’s rival!) Court of Appeals struck down the FAA’s rule, which required the registration of all drones. The judicial repeal of that rule means that the FAA cannot require “model aircraft” owner-operators to register their aircraft.

The D.C. Circuit Court found that the FAA’s regulation violated the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which prohibited the the FAA from issuing “. . . any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft.” The Court ruled that “drones” are within the definition of “model aircraft.” Notably, the decision does not apply to “commercial” drones, those people who are charging others for their services. Commercial drones/operators must still register, pass a test, etc. But it does free the average hobbyist from the registration requirement, the placement of an identifying badge or number on the “aircraft” itself, and the payment of a $5 registration fee.

UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) hobbyists’ registration reprieve could be short-lived. The FAA Modernization Act sunsets on September 30, 2017. Before that time, if a new bill passes, reauthorizing the Federal Aircraft Administration (FAA), it might well include provisions requiring registration, rather than forbidding it.

So, amateur model aircraft pilots and drone hobbyists, unite, and . . . take flight!