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Missoula Attempting to Use Mediation in Criminal Cases

photo by Peter Christian
Kirsten Pabst

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst says her office is pursuing the possibility of using mediation in criminal cases, a process that may have never been used in Montana.

“The legislature authorized criminal mediation in 2007 after they realized what great cost savings it was and how it helped lessen that burden on the county court docket in the civil cases,” says Pabst. “I am not aware of anybody ever doing it around here and I know my predecessor wasn’t that interested in it. I think it’s a great tool.”

Mediation is often used in civil cases, and Pabst says for it to occur, both parties must agree to the process. If agreed to, a judge will select a mediator.

“The judge chooses a mediator based on recommendations and then you sit down and it’s an alternative dispute resolution,” says Pabst. “Usually, it’s a mediator with lots of experience in criminal law and has an idea of how this case is going to turn out if it does go to trial. Then the parties split the cost of the mediation which is minuscule compared the the cost that a trail would be.”
The costs of a trial are great, and very difficult to ascertain. Pabst says she is analyzing the expense of criminal trials and says they can cost taxpayers anywhere between 25,000 and 250,000 dollars. Pabst says that if the current mediation process is successful, she will release more details, until then, all the parties must remain anonymous.

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