The Effects Of The Closure Of Los Angeles Superior Court’s ADR

After more than 20 years of service, Los Angeles Superior Court officials eliminated its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program as part of budget cuts that also resulted in the loss of 500 total jobs. The ADR program was the largest of its kind in the United States and had served as a role model for other programs.

Thousands of cases were resolved without ever going to court because of ADR, according to Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Superior Court. During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the ADR program worked with 14,045 cases, resolving 12,906 of them. This cost free, effective program was eliminated, essentially without explanation. With fewer people working for the court, this move makes little sense. Here are a few reasons:

-Court officials say they are inundated with work. The ADR mediators provided three hours of work to the parties pro bono. In some cases three hours was all that was needed to settle a case. Any additional billing was sent to the parties.

-Mediation brought cases to settlement sooner than a lengthy court battle would. Often, the parties would modify their demand so that it did settle.

Before ADR, it could take up to five years for a case to get into a courtroom. After that, the court could continue the trial for another two years, avoiding the five-year statute requiring trial to begin within five years. This gave the parties reasons to stall. This is reminiscent the saying “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

What does this mean for the thousands of cases that go through Los Angeles Superior Court? The parties can still seek private mediation to resolve their disputes. The ADR program proved the value of mediation to the parties and the courts.

Those who don’t seek mediation will likely have to wait for a court date which could take five to seven years. Some may give up on their case rather than wait. Others may take bad settlements out of frustration. These are options that give defendants such as insurance companies in civil suits an advantage. Injured parties that need money fast to pay for medical expenses and bills may settle more quickly than if they had the chance to mediate.

Court officials have not said if the ADR is permanently closed but have indicated they are facing a budget shortfall of up to $55 million. The case statistics from the 2013-2014 will give a clear picture of how this affects the court system.