Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 26, 2009


Page 1


Superior Court Proposes Amendments to ADR Rules


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Los Angeles Superior Court has proposed amending its Local Rules on alternative dispute resolution programs to add minimum qualifications, and recusal and disqualification standards for panel members, as well as a complaint investigation process.

In a notice dated Tuesday soliciting comment by April 10, the court also proposed restructuring Chapter 12 of its rules to revise mediation, neutral evaluation and arbitration procedures and identify them individually, and the imposition of other quality assurance rules.

Under the proposal, prospective mediation, neutral evaluation and arbitration panel members would be required to establish relevant training and experience in order to join a panel, and maintain access to a facility in which to conduct mediations.

Mediators and arbitrators would also have to agree to observation by the ADR Administrator and certify compliance with certain qualifications every three years.

The proposal would also identify mandatory grounds for recusal or disqualification of a neutral under state law and the California Rules of Court in appendices attached to the proposed rules, and would set a five-day limitations period on recusal or disqualification requests.

Ex parte communications with the ADR neutral outside of the presence of opposing counsel or a self-represented party would not be prohibited in mediation.

However, they would still be barred in neutral evaluations unless otherwise agreed by the parties and the evaluators, and completely in arbitration, except as to scheduling matters, until the evaluator commits the matter to writing or the arbitrator files and serves an award.

The proposal would also provide for the receipt and investigation of complaints about neutralsí conduct through an ADR Quality Assurance Subcommittee. Complaints would be referred for a staff inquiry to determine further investigation, and the courtís ADR Administrator would be able to temporarily place a neutral on inactive status.

Neutrals would be able to contest any suspension or removal through a written response and seek reconsideration of any decisions, and the proposal would emphasize confidentiality in such proceedings.

If adopted, the proposal would restructure most of Chapter 12 of the courtís rules, resulting in the renumbering of a number of current sections. It would also delete current provisions relating to the Early Mandatory Mediation Pilot Program, and the Early Neutral Evaluation Pilot Program.

Comments on the proposal must be submitted in writing by 5 p.m. on April 10 to Bridget T. Hana, Management Systems Analysis Unit, Superior Court, 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.


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