Mediating Justice

by Robert Bradford

Amy Wind '77

Considering Amy Wind ’77 lives in Washington, D.C., she hears the rumblings of the political wars all too often. Partisans on both sides of the aisle battle over issue after issue without giving an inch, preferring to posture and take positions rather than roll up their sleeves to hammer out deals, compromises, and real legislation.

Wind is setting an example that political Washington should heed. As chief circuit mediator, she is responsible for the mediation programs of the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court, and U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Columbia. Her daily goal is simple: bring opposing parties together in civil cases to find common ground and practical alternatives to litigation.

“It’s all about problem solving. I went from many years of arguing people’s cases as a trial lawyer to listening as a neutral to other people arguing their cases,” says Wind. “As a mediator, the parties need to trust you to understand their side of the story and to help them find different ways to accomplish their goals and achieve justice. My work often involves having the parties sit down, listen to each other, and find a pragmatic way to end their dispute.”

As one of only 13 federal chief circuit mediators in the country, Wind oversees the activities of 150 attorney-mediators volunteering for her courts’ mediation programs. She also handles an array of her own mediations, from complex environmental issues to employment law to disputes over the constitutionality of federal regulations. Wind has taught mediation skills for well over a decade as an adjunct law professor and trainer at federal agencies and the Federal Judicial Center.

The transition from trial lawyer to mediator was a natural progression for Wind. As a lawyer, she handled contentious employment cases for 12 years—writing briefs, conducting trials, arguing appeals. Eventually, she reached a point where, she says, “I just got tired of arguing.”

After receiving training in mediation and taking a sabbatical to Africa, in 1994 Wind opened her own practice, in which she mediated hundreds of cases. Wind also worked for several years with the nonprofit Search for Common Ground, where she used her mediation skills to bring liberal and conservative organizations together to work on joint projects related to race relations and affirmative action. Wind was appointed chief circuit mediator in 2008.

Wind cites her experience at Scripps as the beginning of her foray into social justice and the foundation upon which she built her varied and successful career path.

“Since my days at Scripps, where I helped establish the College Council’s first diversity chair, I have been interested in the practical aspects of implementing social justice. So, my career choices probably make sense,” Wind says.

 

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