Thursday, November 15, 2001
George Names 17 to Panel to Craft Ethics Standards for Arbitrators
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Chief Justice Ronald M. George yesterday named 17 lawyers, judges, professors and consumer advocates to a panel to review ethics standards for contractual arbitrators.
University of San Francisco law professor Jay Folberg will chair the blue ribbon group, which was created under a bill passed this year that requires that new ethical standards for non-judicial arbitrators be in place by July 1, 2002.
Except for two members from Sacramento and one from Napa Valley, every member is from Los Angeles County or the Bay Area.
The Los Angeles panel members include Court of Appeal Justice Miriam Vogel of this district’s Div. One, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Rothman, attorney Robert Holtzman of Loeb & Loeb, USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Pepperdine law professor L. Randolph Lowry, and Richard Chernick, a former Los Angeles County Bar Association president and now vice president and managing director of the arbitration practice of JAMS, one of the state’s largest alternative dispute resolution firms.
Current law already sets standards for arbitrators to disclose their connections, if any, with either of the parties that appear before them, and allows for awards to be vacated in court in the event disclosure was incomplete.
But critics of private arbitration have long argued that more stringent standards are needed as more consumer contracts require mandatory private arbitration. Some have asserted that the justice system is in danger of being bifurcated, with consumers being forced to private proceedings against their will or being compelled to pay additional fees in public courts when trial judges decides to refer discovery disputes to referees.
Arbitrators, often retired attorneys who represented large companies in commercial or tort litigation practice, are often perceived as having far more in common with large businesses or the law firms that represent them than consumers who have disputes with those companies.
Earlier this year Gov. Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 475 by state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, which calls for the Judicial Council to clarify or raise its standards for avoiding arbitrators’ conflicts of interest. The bill was co-sponsored by Davis, the Judicial Council and Escutia, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill adds a number of provisions to the Code of Civil Procedure including Sec. 1281.85, which provides that standards shall address the disclosure of interests, relationships, or affiliations that may constitute conflicts of interest, “including prior service as an arbitrator or other dispute resolution neutral entity, disqualifications, acceptance of gifts, and establishment of future professional relationships.”
Members include Gene Wong, counsel to Escutia’s committee, and Barry Goode, Davis’ legal affairs secretary. Mediator William Baker of Calistoga also is on the panel.
Bay Area members are San Jose attorney Kenneth C. Bryant of ADR Neutral, Alameda Superior Court Judge Julie M. Conger, San Francisco attorney Michael Futterman of Dodd, Futterman & Dupree, Senior Attorney Gail Hillerbrand of Consumers Union in San Francisco, retired Contra Costa Superior Court Judge and current JAMS judge Ellen Sickles James, Menlo Park arbitrator/mediator James R. Madison, and Michael Roster, executive vice president and general counsel of Golden West Financial Corporation in Oakland.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company