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In Stunning Move, Los Angeles Courts Abolish Mediation Programs

by Victoria Pynchon
December 2012

Settle It Now and ABC of Conflict Blog by Victoria Pynchon

Victoria Pynchon

In response to brutal budget cuts, the Los Angeles Superior Court is going on life-support at the same time as it abolishes programs that would make the delivery of justice faster, cheaper and more efficient.

Most startling of all court service cuts is the total shut down of all court-run ADR programs - including the free mediation services that settle thousands of lawsuits every year.

In an announcement posted on line at the end of November, the Court concluded its list of budget casualties by "encouraging" (read: begging) L.A. County lawyers to make fewer motions and pursue alternative dispute resolution processes (mediation, arbitration) in the private market.

Private mediation in Los Angeles runs anywhere between $150 and $2,000 an hour, meaning that those with the fewest resources will be hardest hit by the Court cut-backs.

Back in the 1980s when my own father was presiding over the master trial calendar in the L.A. Superior Court, he routinely issued waivers of the State's civil "failure to prosecute" law that required all cases to be tried within five years of the date of their filing.

Court reform followed, assigning cases to individual judges who were responsible for moving cases to trial within one and at most two years. The seemingly intractable justice problem quickly resolved. As a litigator and trial lawyer, and later a "panel" mediator in the Los Angeles Superior Court for thirty years, I can say with some authority that cuts of this magnitude could quite easily, and quickly, bring the wheels of justice in Los Angeles County to a grinding halt.

Every local small business and resident should be concerned and every State Legislator poised to commit more of the State's resources to resolving disputes under the rule of law because chaos follows the deterioration of a functioning justice system.

For a complete list of budget cut-backs, see today's post at Forbes, Public Justice Nears Collapse in Wake of California Budget Cuts.

Biography


Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all types of business torts and contract disputes.  During her two years of full-time neutral practice, she has co-mediated both mandatory and voluntary settlement conferences with Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Alexander Williams, III and Victoria Chaney.  As a result of her work with Judge Chaney in the Complex Court at Central Civil West, Ms. Pynchon has gained significant experience mediating construction defect litigation.  Ms. Pynchon received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the U.C. Davis School of Law. 



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Website: www.settlenow.com

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