Ben Siegel of Buchalter (left)
former bankruptcy judge Herb Katz (right)
Bankruptcy mediation catches on nationwide
A decade ago, there were only a handful of mediation programs in bankruptcy courts.
Long associated with family law disputes, mediation programs were slow to catch on in complex business litigation, including bankruptcy cases.
But that's changing.
More than two-thirds of the 90 bankruptcy courts have mediation available, according to Robert Niemic, senior attorney at the Federal Judicial Center. Even more offer some other form of alternative dispute resolution, such as judicial settlement conferences.
In the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, more than 3,800 cases have been referred to mediation since 1995. About 64 percent of those cases were resolved through settlements.
To keep costs down, the first day of mediation is free. Parties choose from a list of 200 attorneys and non-attorneys, such as accountants and financial experts, who volunteer as mediators.
Chief Bankruptcy Court Judge Barry Russell, who launched the mediation program in 1995, said that most cases settle in a day, producing major cost savings for both the court and the parties involved.