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.
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