According to the November 15, 2012 statement issued by Judge Lee Smalley Edmon, Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Court will phase out all non-mandatory elements of the Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (ADR), including the pro-bono mediation program, in approximately mid 2013. The Court will also make significant reductions in the Court’s Dependency Mediation Program. Mandatory elements of the ADR Program, such as judicial settlement officer proceedings should remain in place. Read the Court’s announcement here. The announcement reflects the drastic budget cuts faced by the Court in 2012 and continuing in 2013, and the detrimental affect on resolving disputes through litigation.
What does this mean for lawyers, their clients and other parties to a dispute? It means that litigants in the Los Angeles County court system will encounter unprecedented delays, travel to remote court locations, costs and frustration. As Judge Edmon states, “…litigants, attorneys, witnesses, law enforcement officers and others will find themselves traveling long distances to attend hearings. We will no longer be able to maintain the gains we once made in delay reduction, as we will lack the fully operating courtrooms necessary to ensure that cases are resolved in a timely manner.”
It also means that lawyers and parties to a dispute would be wise to seek alternative methods of resolving disputes, such as private mediation, and select mediators specializing in the subject matter of the dispute so that the matter can be resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.