News and Events
Press Releases

Should You Cut That Big-Screen TV In Half?

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or (518) 210-4161
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Friday, November 15, 2002

You've seen this kind of scenario a hundred times on "Judge Judy" – a boyfriend and girlfriend, madly in love, move in together. And they just have to own a big-screen TV, so they put it on the girlfriend's credit card and promise to pay for it together.

You know what happens next: The happy couple breaks up before the TV is paid for.

"So the question is, how do they resolve things with the TV?" says lawyer and Hudson Valley Community College adjunct instructor Jim Caruso, who will teach Dispute Resolution in the spring 2003 term. "What can you do beside cutting it in half?"

A three-credit class that is part of Hudson Valley's Labor Studies program, Dispute Resolution will run from 1 to 4 p.m. each Thursday.

While Judge Judy would probably yell at the couple before coming to some sort of hasty decision, Caruso says there most likely is a less hostile solution.

"I've settled hundreds of cases before they've gone to trial," said Caruso, an Albany Law School graduate who has more than 12 years of experience as a judge's law clerk. In his clerkship work, Caruso utilizes mediation skills to resolve legal disputes before they go to trial. "I act as an objective third party, giving the clients a dose of reality and appealing to their common sense and their sense of decency."

In short, Caruso oversees court-mandated conferences – many of these conferences are custody and visitation-rights related – listening to both sides and examining settlement opportunities. In an effort to help people avoid a trial, he talks to both sides about attorney costs and the high emotional cost of dragging a family through court proceedings.

With regard to the TV dispute, there probably would be no need to go to court, he said. Instead, he suggests getting the couple talking so they can come up with a payment plan that works for both people. Working with a mediator is the key, though.

"If people have a chance to tell their side of the story to someone objective, it can be very cathartic," Caruso said. "Sometimes that's all it takes to settle things."

Through the Dispute Resolution class, students will learn the mediation skills that help keep people out of court. And the classroom setting will be far from typical.

"That's what going to be great about this class," Caruso said. "I'm looking for students who like to talk and debate in class. They're not just going to listen to me yak. What I'm going to do is let the students learn through role-playing. We'll have hypothetical situations. For example, two parties will have a dispute over property, and it will be up to the students to come to a resolution. They'll be graded on their preparation; how well do they learn the facts of the dispute? They'll also be graded on how well they work with the opposing party to find a solution. And they'll be graded on their poise; their classmates will have an opportunity to critique their performances, and they'll have to respond."

Caruso's Dispute Resolution class is important to anyone interested in learning to resolve the conflicts that arise in everyday life without turning to litigation.

At the very least, it might help keep people from embarrassing themselves on "Judge Judy." Or from cutting a big-screen TV in half.

For more information on the Dispute Resolution class, call (518) 629-7342.

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 50 degree and certification programs in four academic divisions: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Business; as well as programs run through the Educational Opportunity Center offering certification programs in workforce and academic preparation. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students, and it is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining. Hudson Valley has graduated more than 55,000 students, and nearly 75 percent of those graduates live in the Capital Region.