News - Capital University Law School

45 Years Later, Alumni Reflect on the Profound Impact of Night Prosecutor’s Criminal Mediation Program

12/16/2020  - 

The following story was contributed by Larry Ray, L'77.

In 1975, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Law Enforcement Assistant Administration (LEAA) funded an experimental criminal mediation program sponsored by Capital University Law School. This first and successful criminal mediation program in the U.S. was replicated by hundreds of other programs nationally and internationally. During the late 1970’s, the prosecutors of Chillicothe and Newark, Ohio, as well as the police chiefs of Reynoldsburg and Gahanna, Ohio, all signed contracts with the Capital Law to implement similar programs.

In the mid 1970’s, prosecutors and the legal system were hesitant to embrace criminal mediation. In particular, the idea of having law students mediate disputes seemed untenable. Initially, only dog barking cases were referred to mediation. However, the community quickly realized that mediation worked and that well-trained law students could mediate effectively. Gradually more and more cases were referred to the program and by the end of 1979, almost half of the criminal complaints that were brought to the prosecutor were referred to mediation, with an 85% success rate. This success included many referrals to social services, which led to the inclusion of social work and psychology graduate students in the mediations.

Importantly, participation had a profound impact on Capital Law students at the time.   The following are testimonies from CapLaw alumni who served as mediators in the program:

“Having practiced family and employment law for over 40 years, and having served as a Judge in a Family law division, I am firmly committed to mediation over litigation. I am eternally grateful to have had the Night Prosecutor experience as part of my legal education. It made me a better lawyer who could teach clients that they have the power to resolve their problems rather than have orders imposed on them.” Lori K. Serratelli, L’78, Harrisburg, PA.

“As a young law student, the Night Prosecutor’s Program was one of my earliest introductions to the importance of effective communications skills to the human issues of everyday life in a culturally diverse community. It gave me a lifelong understanding and appreciation of how people in crisis and their disputes can be resolved amicably.” Dale Matthews, L ‘78, retired, Ohio Parole Board Hearing Officer, Pickerington, OH.

“NPP was truly a life changing experience. Directly after graduation, I was hired to write an LEAA grant to start the Neighborhood Justice Center in Colorado Springs. Shortly after getting the grant, I was hired as the first Executive Director. I am very proud of the fact that the NJC is still providing mediation services for the region. I can also say that my experience at NPP showed me how it was possible to both be both an advocate and mediator as part of my law practice.” Kenneth Jaray, L’79, former Mayor of Manitou Springs, CO.

“I was older than most of my colleagues in law school and thought that I had lots of experience with life issues. As a mediator and then Intake Counselor, I learned that listening was key. to avoid making assumptions and to avoid stereotyping. These skills assisted me greatly in my subsequent general practice.” Alvora Varin-Hommen, L’78, Volunteer Mediator for EEOC, Philadelphia, PA.

“Working at NPP redirected my entire legal career. For the past decades I have been mediating and teaching mediation.”  Kim Kovach, L’78, Law Professor, Austin, TX. 

“I had a great time mediating at NPP. I was the director of the Chillicothe initiative. Although I have not been practicing mediation, ironically my attorney son Lucas has now devoted his career to mediation having heard me and my colleague Larry Ray talk of our experiences. He has even created a dispute resolution company, Senatus with Larry.”  Tom Vande Sande, L’77, Intellectual Property Attorney, Potomac, MD. 

“Night Prosecutors was one if those life changing experiences for me. Not only did I get my first job after law school at the City Prosecutors office because of Larry Ray’s recommendation post Night Prosecutors program but I also met my future love and wife Amy Kohlberg there.” David Quinlan, L’78, Ft.Myers, FL. 

“Working at and directing the Night Prosecutor’s Mediation Program redirected my entire legal career. I am not sure if I had even heard of mediation before and surely did not see that as the role of the lawyer. I now have devoted my entire career to mediation, arbitration and negotiation.” Larry Ray L’77, Senior Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University School of Law and Partner, SenatusADR, Inc., Washington, DC.

Today, more than ever, dispute resolution skills, such as negotiation and mediation, are vital to any type of lawyering. Ninety-eight percent of all civil disputes are not litigated but settled in alternative ways while 95% of all criminal situation are solved alternatively outside of trials.  

The above quotes from experienced lawyers validate the value of student experiential learning and the valuable and profound impact of acquiring dispute resolution skills.


About Larry Ray:  Ray graduated from Muskingum University 1974 and Capital University School of Law, 1977. He served as the first Prosecutor Director of the Night Prosecutor’s Mediation and Intake Program, Columbus, Ohio.  He became the first DC based director of the American Bar Association (ABA) Dispute Resolution Initiative.  He was also the first Executive Director of the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM).  He designed and coordinated peacemaking programs at several DC elementary schools.  He is one of the founding members of Senatus, a dispute resolution corporation.