THE ELIMINATION OF COURT-ORDERED ADR, AND THE NEW REALITY IN THE LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT
The changes to the administration of civil cases that will be implemented from December 2012 through June 2013 are significant, if not unprecedented. As proposed, the new rules will eliminate and discontinue all court-ordered ADR programs, including court-ordered mediations.
Under the “fast track” rules, the Court took an active role in managing the cases by imposing strict deadlines along the way to trial. The goal of fast track was to have 90% of cases be tried or otherwise resolved within one year, and 98% of cases tried or resolved within eighteen months. The days of the less involved case management from the bench, from filing to trial, would be long gone.
The courts are now veering away from the proactive case management of fast track. The new changes have been brought about by an unprecedented funding crisis throughout California. Simply put, there are not nearly enough revenues to administer civil justice in the manner that attorneys and litigants had come to expect over the past twenty plus years.
In 2012 alone, the cuts have been dramatic. In April, the court announced the reduction of $30 million from its budget, resulting in the closure of 56 courtrooms and the layoff of 100 court employees. This $30 million cut followed an earlier $70 million reduction, resulting in the layoff of 329 court employees. While these courtroom closures in April mostly affected criminal courts (though two civil courtrooms were closed), the effects remained significant to civil litigation. The April cuts resulted in more significant delays (notwithstanding the continued adherence to the “fast track” rules), and the parties were and are responsible for providing their own court reporters to make a record of the trial.
But it gets worse. In mid-November 2012, the court announced even more significant cuts that directly affect civil case management in Los Angeles County. Among the significant changes to be implemented from December 1, 2012 through June 2013 are the following:
- Ten entire courthouses will close
- All personal injury cases will be filed in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and will be assigned to one of two master calendar judges. Each judge is expected to administer 8,000 (that’s right – eight thousand!) cases. These cases will only be assigned out to an individual calendar judge in the district in which the injury occurred when the case is deemed too “appearance heavy” but does not qualify for complex designation at the Central Civil West courthouse.
- With a new Court Rule change, there will be no more Case Management Conferences, post-mediation status conferences, or OSCs re dismissal, default or failure of timely service.
- The court’s ADR program will be discontinued, though the settlement judges in the districts and in the Mosk Courthouse will remain available for settlement conferences.
There are a number of other changes forthcoming that will affect collections, harassment, probate, small claims and unlawful detainer cases. These changes are outlines and may be accessed at www.lasccourtreport.com
The elimination of the court’s ADR program is of paramount significance. For the past twenty years, virtually every civil case filed in Los Angeles County has been referred to mediation or some other form of pre-trial ADR. It is thus incumbent upon those of us who are ADR professionals to provide an effective means by which these cases can be resolved.
Although the news from the court is not good, as the axiom goes, “when one door closes, another opens”. With the implementation of these sweeping changes over the next six months, it will be interesting to see what effect they have on actually getting cases to trial. Importantly, ADR professionals must respond to what is sure to become a significantly more widespread need for our help in resolving civil cases.
Original Article Date: December 18, 2012 by CEDRS Mediator Sean Judge