By MARGARET BLOHM
For the Times-Herald
Why does a judge, who hears civil cases, encourage litigants to consider using alternative means of settling disputes outside the courtroom?
Simply put, Judge Kevin Robbins of Michigan’s 36th District Court in Detroit says, “I’ve seen the results, even with the most difficult cases.”
Prior to joining the court in 2002, Robbins was an attorney for Kmart, handling personal injury and public liability cases. He also previously worked in the Civil Litigation Division of the city of Detroit Law Department. During those years, he received training as a case mediator and case evaluator, and served as an arbitrator for the city.
After being elected to the 36th District Court, Robbins spent several years as a judge presiding over criminal cases. In 2017, he transferred to the civil docket.
Returning to civil cases, which typically require more paperwork and preliminary preparation than criminal cases, Robbins recalled his work as a mediator.
Then he learned that Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center handles various mediations for the 36th District Court.
“I contacted their office to find out if I could refer litigants to them for mediation,” said Robbins, who became the first civil case judge in 36th District Court to refer a case, in house, to WCDRC in March 2018.
Robbins shared that before he refers litigants to mediation, he fully explains the alternative dispute resolution process and lets them know that if their dispute is not resolved, they can come back to the judge.
Robbins said litigants also welcome the fact that there are minimal costs for mediation through WCDRC. Many of the cases can be resolved the same day, and it helps to reduce Robbins’ caseload. Referrals include construction cases, the damage portion of landlord-tenant cases, real estate issues, breach of contract and personal injury claims.
“It’s beautiful when I get cases resolved through the mediation process,” Robbins said.
“We greatly appreciate Judge Robbins for the opportunity to serve as a resource through the 36th District Court,” WCDRC Interim Director David Robinson said. “The court is one of many areas in which we provide a variety of mediation services to benefit the citizens of Wayne County.”
“Because Judge Robbins is well trained in mediation and understands its benefits, he is helping us fulfill our organization’s vision of changing the culture of conflict in Wayne County,” WCDRC Assistant Director Naomi Davis said. “He’s opened the door for others to follow.”
WCDRC serves all of Wayne County and is one of the largest of 18 community-based nonprofit mediation centers in Michigan. Based in Dearborn, it provides mediation services for a wide variety of domestic, general civil and school conflict issues in Wayne County.
In 2018, WCDRC handled more than 2,300 cases and helped more than 5,000 individuals who were referred by various courts, schools and agencies.
To receive details about mediation services, training and volunteer opportunities, go to www.wcdrc.org or call 313-561-3500.