Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The grand unwelcome budget-cutting experiment in which California courts are currently engaged may result in the undoing of reforms courts have developed over the past several decades to better manage their caseloads. Ideas that both the federal and state systems now consider best practices, such as the individual calendar system and closer judicial involvement in pre-trial proceedings, are in danger of being thrown out. Case in point: the LA County Superior Court, the largest local court system in the country, is seeking to jettison case management conferences, one of the main tools the court has at its disposal to check in with the parties early in the case and help steer cases to resolution. The court is also planning a […]

I find myself charged with an unexpected project, trying to figure out how to deal with the probable demise of one of the largest court-assisted ADR programs in the country. At the same time, the court system is also implementing drastic funding cutbacks that are likely to increase backlogs and reduce the availability of court services, suggesting that mediation is needed more than ever to resolve disputes that the court system is less and less capable of resolving. The elimination of funding for the LA County Superior Court ADR program, expected to take place by June of this year, combined with these other cutbacks, presents a unique opportunity for other organizations–such as the Southern California Mediation Association, of which I […]

Has the rise of ADR affected the way advocates prepare and handle cases, or can we expect attorneys to continue their customary practices of pleadings, motions, discovery and trial preparation, until the day comes when the cases settle in spite of, or as a result of, those efforts? A lot of time and effort is spent on pre-trial activities that are not of much benefit even if a case goes to trial, and are even more wasteful if the case is settled. Is there a way of conducting litigation that might avoid some of that wasteful activity and lead the parties on a more direct route toward a negotiated resolution? I’m not talking about what Professor Marc Galanter described years […]

The prospect of elimination of all ADR administration by the the Los Angeles County Superior Court, discussed in a previous post, seems about to touch off another debate about pro bono mediation. LA’s court-connected mediation panels have always had a strong pro bono component, and this rankles a lot of practicing and prospective mediators, who quite rightly feel that mediators deserve to be paid, just as judges, court personnel and the parties’ counsel all need and expect to be paid for their services. A lot of mediators will therefore say good riddance to the court’s pro bono panel, and hope that the prospects for free mediation will be quite limited in the future. On the other hand, others trying to […]

The news is worse than expected. I had been thinking of the impact of court funding cutbacks here in Los Angeles primarily in terms of how cutbacks and delays in courtroom services would affect the demand for ADR. That was the focus of the program I moderated at the SCMA conference last month, where we also touched on the possibility of cutbacks to the ADR program itself, but did not anticipate its complete elimination. This week I learned that the entire LA Superior Court ADR program, one of the largest in the nation, is indeed in jeopardy.  A recent message from the chief judge announced that the court anticipates elimination of all non-mandatory elements of the court’s ADR programs next […]