Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Page 1


Superior Court Slates CRASH Settlement Effort for June


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Los Angeles Superior Court is seeking attorney volunteers for its massive effort to settle employment cases this June, the judge in charge of the program told the MetNews.

Judge William Highberger said the court will reprise the Employment CRASH program that it successfully initiated last September.

The program will involve 50 teams, each made up of one plaintiff’s lawyer, one defense lawyer, and one judge or commissioner, that will evaluate referred cases and make suggestions for settlement. State court rules governing mandatory settlement conferences apply, the court explained in a release, so parties, lead counsel, and insurance adjusters where needed are required to attend in person.

The court said it would try to get settlement briefs from all counsel in time to send them to the volunteers by e-mail in advance.

The program will take place over five days, from June 4 through June 8, with 10 teams being used each day. Forty-four of the needed 50 teams are already scheduled, Highberger said.

Cases are referred to the program by individual calendar judges assigned to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. “Nearly 100 percent” of the employment cases filed in the county are filed at Mosk, Highberger explained, because plaintiffs’ attorneys prefer the downtown jury pools.

Last September, the judge reported, 50 of the 150 referred cases settled before CRASH week, and another 50 settled that week.

The program, he explained, grew out of discussions among Mosk judges, initiated by Highberger’s wife, Judge Carolyn Kuhl, who supervises the courts there. The jurists indicated that a disproportionate amount of court time was being dedicated to three types of cases—asbestos, employment, and class-action litigation.

Other changes in court practice were instituted in order to speed up asbestos and class-action cases, Highberger said. But the CRASH program—the acronym stands for Civil Referee-Assisted Settlement Hearing—seemed particularly appropriate for resolving employment cases.

The concept, and the acronym, were taken from a program carried out in Burbank for general tort litigation some years back by now-deceased Judge Charles Stoll, Highberger said.

The program gives lawyers an opportunity not only to serve the court, but also to expand their understanding of the field by gaining insight into how lawyers on the other side evaluate cases, Highberger said.

Experienced employment litigators who wish to volunteer for the remaining teams, the judge explained, should contact one of the following bar leader contacts:

For the Association of Business Trial Lawyers (Los Angeles) and the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Litigation Section, Elizabeth Mann;

For the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Linda Miller Savitt;

For the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Alexander Harwin;

For the California Employment Lawyers Association (Los Angeles Chapter) Toni Jaramilla;

For the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Lisa Maki;

For the LACBA Labor & Employment Law Section, Dana Howells;

For the Woman Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Amy Brantly

Volunteers are asked to commit at least one full day to the program, the judge said.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company