Does No Progress in CSN Houston Mediation Effort Really Mean No Progress?

Categories: Sports

The hard part of mediation is getting to yes.
The Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and Comcast gathered before federal district court judge Lynn Hughes on Friday. This wasn't a hearing, and no judicial orders were handed down. It was, instead, the third mediation session for the parties within the past several weeks. The dispute under mediation is the CSN Houston bankruptcy, but as has been the case since October of 2012 when the network went on the air, nothing was settled.

I handled lots of mediations back in my litigation days. I was a big fan of mediation days. They were days of easy billable hours that the client wouldn't dispute. The lunch was free, and there were usually free muffins and donuts for breakfast with all of the free drinks one could desire. For me, this was back in the days before BlackBerrys and iPhones, so a day at mediation was a day away from emails and constant disruptions from partners. It was bliss.

The one issue with those mediation days was the whole mediation thing. Mediation works great in concept. It brings the parties together with a chance to air their side, give their position, with no consequences. The plaintiff gives its desired settlement. The defendant gives its position. The mediator puts the parties in different offices, then shuttles back and forth, trying to get the two sides to meet somewhere in the middle.

But for mediation to be successful, both parties must be willing to settle at some point between the extremes. I handled the defense side of automobile collision litigation. The client was technically the insured party driving the car that supposedly caused the accident. But the person calling the shots was always somebody with the insurance company, and these people didn't want to settle. So we'd come into the mediation, the arguments would be presented, we'd go to our different rooms and for the most part, the closest the insurance rep would get to meeting anybody in the middle was agreeing whether it was a nice day outside.

It's doubtful this is how things are proceeding down in Judge Hughes's courtroom. From what I've been told, he's not much for putting up with guys like my old insurance reps who absolutely refused to participate in the process. So it's doubtful that the only thing Jim Crane or Les Alexander or the Comcast reps have agreed to is deals with the weather. There's been no successful settlement yet, but here's the thing. I'm not buying into any talk or any suggestion that there's been no movement by the parties.

"We didn't get anything finished," Crane told the Houston Chronicle's David Barron Friday evening. "We just got to an impasse, and everybody is leaving. We're still working on it [and] will continue to work on it until we hopefully get a good solution for our fans."

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