Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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At a CLE program I attended last week put on by the LA Superior Court and hosted by Pepperdine Law School, two of the panelists, Max Factor and Peter Robinson, got into something of a debate about how to handle an ethical situation. The topic concerned the mediator’s responsibilities when the mediator learns that one party to a mediation has slipped a potential land mine into a proposed agreement. Suppose the party inserting such a provision admits their deceitful intent and specifically instructs the mediator not to tell the other side of the land mine’s existence. Is the mediator bound to keep that information confidential? Perhaps, but to avoid being a party to a potential fraud, the mediator can at […]

Last year the California Supreme Court upheld California’s expansive protection for mediation confidentiality to bar evidence of attorney-client communications made during mediation in support of potential malpractice claims against attorneys. In doing so, however, the court practically begged the legislature to consider amending the statute to allow the use of such evidence. A bill has now been introduced in the legislature to do just that. It would amend Section 1120 of the Evidence Code, which already provides some very narrow exceptions to mediation confidentiality, to add this new exception to the general rule of inadmissibility: (4) The admissibility in an action for legal malpractice, an action for breach of fiduciary duty, or both, or in a State Bar disciplinary action, […]

You know that mediation has hit the mainstream when the cover story of the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine (published by the Los Angeles County Bar Association) is about mediation confidentiality.  The scope of mediation confidentiality is not only a hot issue in the field, but important to every lawyer who encounters mediation, which is getting close to everyone nowadays. Retired Judge Michael Marcus, now a practicing arbitrator and mediator, has published a helpful summary of the development of the law regarding mediation confidentiality in California in both the state and federal courts. I won’t try to summarize his summary here, but am posting this for my own benefit and for anyone else who needs a handy link to all the […]

One of the touted benefits of ADR is that it allows parties to design their own dispute resolution process specially suited to their needs. Problems can arise, however, if a court is subsequently called upon to try to figure out what to call the process the parties have invented. A court might need to do that to decide what rights and obligations the parties have assumed under their process. A recent Federal Circuit case, Kimberly-Clark v. First Quality Baby Products, provides a nice illustration of this problem. (Thanks to the Disputing blog for bringing it to my attention.) In a series of patent infringement disputes between two consumer products giants Kimberly-Clark and Proctor & Gamble, the parties crafted a series […]

I received a mediation brief a few weeks ago from the plaintiffs’ side in a contractual dispute. The brief contained a detailed description of the parties’ agreement, a recitation of the elements of each one of the various causes of action in the complaint, a calculation of the damages due under the contract, including precise interest calculations, and an explanation of why attorneys’ fees were recoverable. It also attached the relevant contractual documents as exhibits. Sounds like as much as any mediator could wish for, right? What else would I possibly want to know about the plaintiff’s position? It turned out, however, when I saw the defendant’s brief, that nothing in the plaintiff’s brief was seriously contested. The real problem […]