The Catholic University of America

 

LSP Students Enjoy Live Finale to Semester-Long Mediation Exercise

 

This one could be called “the price of humiliation.”  Edward Morgan, an accomplished 57 year-old Texas architect, is fired late in his career to make way for younger people with more computer design savvy. He counter-punches with an age discrimination lawsuit, asking for a total of nearly five million dollars.
 
His employer, Architronics, Inc., wanted to avoid a court showdown by offering him another job within the firm at a similar salary, but with a reduced title and a much longer daily commute. Insulted, Morgan chose instead to try and make it pay.  
 
That is the bare bones of the tale, but “Morgan v. Architronics, Inc.,” a simulated-mediation exercise staged like a theater production on April 17 for and by Lawyering Skills Program students, is a more complex story, replete with hidden histories, dark motivations, while displaying a full range of human emotion and behavior.
 
Most of all, the elaborately scripted fictitious legal drama by Catholic University law Professor A.G. Harmon raised thought-provoking legal issues, while at the same time examining the role that competent professional mediators can play in settling disputes before they reach a judge.
 
“In federal and state court these days, the mediation process is increasingly required, but they’re closed to the public,” said Harmon (left). “This simulation allows students to see the dynamics at play as the mediator tries to bring the parties to a resolution.”
 
It was all on display as four LSP students, Adam Shaw (1 E), Phil Donoho (1D), Erik Turkman (1D), and Karey Hart (1D), stepped into character, assuming the roles of plaintiff, defendant, and counsel for both sides.

Ben Jacewitz, a real-life legal mediator and assistant county attorney in Fairfax County, Va., patiently led the battling parties through the predictable stage of charge and counter-charge, listening carefully between the lines as he searched for possible settlement ground between them.
 
Was Edward Morgan’s primary motivation revenge, to put the screws to his former employer? Or, could he be placated by something less than five million dollars? What was Architronics, Inc., prepared to do, if anything, to assuage the outrage of a long-time competent professional suddenly tossed aside like worn out slippers late in his career?
 
It was a problem every section of the Lawyering Skills Program had been working since January, when the case and its attendant legal issues was first introduced to them.
 
The students have discussed the legal action from many angles in class, but the capstone live simulation mediation exercise, acted out with impressive skill and poise by the four law students, brought the issues to a fitting close.  
 
Among other lessons, the LSP students learned that out-of-court mediated settlements can bring good things for both sides.
 
In exchange for dropping his lawsuit, Morgan was handsomely rewarded by Architronics, Inc., including:


 
  • Back pay of $60,000
  • Front pay of $30,000 (for three months, without any work duties)
  • Full retirement benefits at end of three months
  • An article submitted to Architectural Digest, featuring Morgan's designs and skills
  • Positive reference for future employment seeking

    Professor Harmon—a published novelist—framed the legal issues and created the characters in Morgan v. Architronics, Inc.  The mediation exercise was sponsored by Professor Lisa Everhart, director of Catholic University’s Lawyering Skills Program.