Searchable National Database of Mediation Ethics Opinions, including most Tennessee Opinions.  Tennessee mediation ethics opinions are included in an American Bar Association National Clearinghouse for Mediator Ethics Opinions.  See ADR Resources: Web Site Links for a link to the ABA Dispute Resolution Section web page that provides access to the mediator ethics opinions.

Article on Ethics Resources.  Troubled by a mediation ethics enigma? State ADR rules a little vague? Take advantage of the free online ADR ethics resources from the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution outlined in Marnie Huff's article published by Mediate.com, "Do the 5 Step: ABA ADR Ethics Resources.

Rule 31. Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 governs the conduct of mediators and other alternative dispute resolution neutrals serving pursuant to that Rule.  "Rule 31 ADR proceedings" are court-initiated proceedings under Rule 31, including "Case Evaluations," "Mediations," "Judicial Settlement Conferences," "Non-Binding Arbitrations," "Summary Jury Trials," "Mini-Trials," or other similar proceedings. 

Rule 31 mediator reporting. Information on case reporting duties of Rule 31 mediators.

See TN ADR NEWS/REPORTS for information on 2009, 2010 and 2011 amendments to Rule 31.

NOTES ON 2007 AMENDMENTS OF RULE 31: 
  • October 10, 2007:  order amending the review process for complaints against both attorney and non-attorney Rule 31 mediators (complaints against attorney mediators raising a "substantial question as to the attorney's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a in lawyer in other respects" shall be filed with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility; all other complaints against attorney mediators, plus all complaints against non-attorney mediators, shall be filed with the Tennessee ADR Commission)
  • September 18, 2007: new Section 17(i) to Rule 31 (eliminates a conflict between Chapter 598, Public Acts of 2007 regarding special education mediations conducted by ALJs employed by Tennessee Secretary of State and Rule 31)
 
BPR.  The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) regulates the conduct of attorney/mediators pursuant to TN S.Ct. Rule 31, Section 11(b) and provides ethical guidance to attorney/mediators in Tennessee.  See summary of some pertinent BPR opinions.  Complete copies of formal ethics opinions of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility are available on the BPR web site.

ADR Commission.  The Tennessee Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution regulates the conduct of non-attorney mediators pursuant to TN S.Ct. Rule 31, Section 11(a) and publishes its ethics advisory opinions.  See, for example, the ADR Commission's opinion that it was not proper for a mediator to file a report that one party to a mediation did not act in good faith.

The Commission issued Advisory Opinion No.: 2014-0001 (January 28, 2014) to
address four questions:
  • Does Rule 31’s use of the phrase “licensed attorneys” mean State of Tennessee licensed attorneys only?
  • Does Rule 31’s use of the phrase “any lawyer in good standing” mean any State of Tennessee licensed lawyer in good standing only?
  • Does Rule 31 allow parties in a mediation or arbitration to waive Rule 31’s requirements for a licensed attorney or licensed lawyer in good standing?
  • In non-ADR proceedings, including the general and private practice of alternative dispute resolution, may mediations and arbitrations be conducted by individuals who are not attorneys licensed by the State of Tennessee?
The Committee first concluded Rule 31 does not affect or address the general practice of ADR in the private sector outside the scope of Rule 31. Rule 31 applies to eligible civil actions, conducted by a Rule 31 mediator. Any mediation conducted by a Rule 31 mediator is an ADR Proceeding covered by Rule 31. A licensed attorney from a jurisdiction other than Tennessee may become a Rule 31 approved mediator per Section 17(a)(2). Second, pursuant to Section
17(a)(2), the lawyer applicant for Rule 31 approval by the ADRC must be in good standing in all states in which she or he is licensed. Third, it is not necessary to be a licensed attorney to be a Rule 31 mediator. Parties may choose to select a non-Rule 31 mediator. As for arbitrations, Rule 31 relates to non-binding arbitrations, a defined phrase in Rule 31 Section 2(l). A Rule 31 non-binding arbitration would be conducted by a Rule 31 neutral; Rule 31 Section 2(p) provides that such persons must be licensed attorneys. A binding arbitration, and arbitrators who conduct binding arbitrations, are not within the purview of Rule 31. Tennessee has adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-5-301 et seq. Links to other advisory opinions are available at

Advisory Opinion 2014-0002 (April 16, 2014) discusses whether a psychiatrist who is a Rule 31 mediator may conduct mediation at hermedical practice and whether she may provide post-mediation psychiatric services to a participant in a mediation.

Tennessee Attorney General.  In Opinion No. 06-079, the State Attorney General states that mediation does not involve the practice of law:  "'Mediation,' as that term is defined in Tenn. S. Ct. R. 31, § 2(f), is an informal process in which a neutral third party conducts discussions among disputing parties to facilitate an agreement between them concerning the issues in dispute. Under the definitions of 'practice of law' in Tenn. Code Ann. § 23-3-101(2) and 'the practice of law' in Tenn. S. Ct. R. 9, § 20.2(3), one of the components of engaging in the practice of law is acting in a representative capacity either as an advocate or counselor. Because a mediator is neutral and not acting in a representative capacity, the mediator does not engage in the practice of law."

Judicial Ethics Committee Advisory Opinion.  In Opinion 99-6, the Tennessee Judicial Ethics Committee states that a part-time General Sessions Court Judge is not per se prohibited from serving as a Rule 31 mediator.  The propriety of acting as a mediator must be determined on a case by case basis, to ensure that the judge does not violate the Code of Judicial Ethics.

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ADR Resources: Ethics - TN Mediators
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