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Mediation has sometimes been utilized to good effect when coupled with arbitration, particularly binding arbitration, in a process called 'mediation/arbitration'. In this process, if parties are unable to reach resolution through mediation, the mediator becomes an arbitrator, shifting the mediation process into an arbitral one, seeking additional evidence as needed (particularly from witnesses, if any, since witnesses are normally not called upon by a mediator), and finally rendering an arbitral decision.

This process is more appropriate in civil matters where rules of evidence or jurisdiction are not in dispute. It resembles, in some respects, criminal plea-bargaining and Confucian judicial procedure, wherein the judge also plays the role of prosecutor.

Mediation/arbitration hybrids can pose significant ethical and process problems for mediators. Many of the options and successes of mediation relate to the mediator's unique role as someone who wields coercive power over neither the parties nor the outcome. If parties in a mediation are aware the mediator might later need to act in the role of judge, the process could be dramatically distorted. Thankfully, mediation-arbitration often involves using different individuals in the role of mediator and (if needed later) arbitrator, but this is not always the case.

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