Monday, January 25, 2021

New MDFL Local Rules Take Effect 2/1/21

After careful deliberation and based on the Lawyer Advisory Committee's report and the public comments, the Board of Judges recently approved revisions to the Middle District of Florida's Local Rules. The revised Local Rules become effective February 1, 2021. Stated goals for this revision are to: modernize and simplify; accommodate changes in national and local practice; eliminate overlap with federal rules and statutes; eliminate references to specific federal rules and statutes; address re-occurring complaints and issues; and accord with best practices. In regard to mediation, Chapter Four of the new rules specifies that:  To refer an action or claim to mediation, the judge must enter an order that: (a) designates the mediator or directs the parties to select a mediator and to notify the judge of the selection;(b ) establishes a mediation deadline; (c) requires a lawyer to confirm a mediation date agreeable to the mediator and the parties and to notify the judge of the date; (d) requires the attendance of lead counsel, the parties or a party’s surrogate satisfactory to the mediator, and any necessary insurance carrier representative;(e) notifies the parties that unexcused absence or departure from mediation is sanctionable; (f) requires the mediator to report within seven days after mediation the result of the mediation and whether all required persons attended; and (g) directs that the substance of the mediation is confidential and that no party, lawyer, or other participant is bound by, may record, or without the judge’s approval may disclose any event, including any statement confirming or denying a fact — except settlement — that occurs during the mediation. See more here-

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Happy Zoom Year! Join Us 1/22/21!

Please join us later this month for the first program of our webinar series this year in conjunction with the University of Florida Institute for Dispute Resolution. Along with my longtime colleague and fellow mediator and arbitrator at our mediation firm, Michelle Jernigan, I'll go through current dispute resolution options in Florida as reopening of the courts remains uncertain until Covid-19 no longer presents a significant risk to public health and safety. Meanwhile, mediation, arbitration, nonbinding arbitration and early neutral evaluation are proving to be as effective online as they were in person. Which means of resolution fits the particular fuss? We'll discuss the features of each form of ADR. Join us for this free Webinar, scheduled for Noon on Friday, January 22, 2021, and you'll be eligible for one general CLE credit from The Florida Bar and self-reported CME to the Dispute Resolution Center. Please register here today--

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Remote CME & Training To Continue

This week, the Supreme Court of Florida amended an administrative order (AO) regarding mediator certification and renewal. This continues the judicial system's periodic update for measures to address the effects on court operations of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Please note this is an amendment to AOSC20-24 issued in the spring. Some provisions of the order expire on December 31, 2020, and some provisions have been extended until December 31, 2021. The Dispute Resolution Center states in a message to mediators that the AO should be read carefully as all dates listed are correct. Provisions that have been extended through December 31, 2021 include:

1. Training programs are allowed to be conducted online 

2. Certified mediators may complete their CME requirements in any format including non-live programs

3. Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators suspended as to required points for mentorship (except for county mediator certification, some mentorship activities may still be needed for applicants to reach the required points for certification)  

4. Electronic signatures of mentors in the mediator certification application may be provided; and

5. Deadline extensions granted for approved mediation trainers through December 31, 2021.

See more here--

Friday, December 11, 2020

Mandatory Non-Binding Arbitration Now Available

A new Administrative Order in Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida now permits a presiding circuit or county court judge to refer civil cases to non-binding arbitration without the consent of the parties, much like cases are referred to mediation. This is the first time in our local courts that such a dispute resolution mechanism, other than mediation, is available for the judicial officer to resolve backlogged cases due to Covid-19 court closures. The development is expected, as other jurisdictions have demonstrated success in culling dockets with this technique. Though some counsel and their clients have expressed disdain for the process, which can be more like a mini-trial, others have found it useful in getting to the heart of the dispute. Per the order, the non-binding arbitration hearing shall be conducted informally with a decision within ten days of the final adjournment. Presentation of testimony shall be kept to a minimum and other matters shall be presented primarily through the statements and arguments of counsel. Arbitration fees shall be equally divided between the parties, unless otherwise agreed by the parties or ordered by the court. The arbitrator or chief arbitrator shall determine the hearing procedures in advance of the hearing, including what live testimony, if any, will be permitted and the nature, scope, and duration which will be set forth in the Notice of Non-binding Arbitration Hearing. When a case is referred to non-binding arbitration the parties shall have fifteen days within which to agree on the number and selection of their own arbitrator(s); otherwise, the presiding judge shall determine the number of arbitrators and select them. See more here--

Sunday, November 15, 2020

A Decade of Orlando Mediator

Today marks 10 years since I began writing this blog to help keep the legal community abreast of the latest goings-on in mediation, arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution. In the interim, this blog has been recognized as an official ABA "Blawg" by the American Bar Association, voted as a finalist for The Expert Institute Best Legal Blog in the Legal News category and a current Top 10 Dispute Resolution Blog and Website to Follow on My first entry had to do with arbitration as a process being under attack and that remains true today. Some things that have changed are the remote nature of these processes, especially since the pandemic began. These changes have advanced the use of state of the art technology like Zoom, now comfortably utilized by professionals, parties and their counsel alike. My alternative dispute resolution practice has continually evolved since becoming certified in 2001 in Circuit-Civil mediation by the Florida Supreme Court and serving as a full-time neutral since 2010. In the last decade, I have handled resolutions of multi-party complex cases in state and federal trial courts. I also facilitated post-trial settlements with cases pending in the Fifth District Court of Appeal, where I was a member of the pilot program for appellate mediation that endured with the creation of an Appellate mediation certification, for which I was grandfathered. Since litigation costs have gone up, courts are extremely backlogged due to Covid and the economy remains tentative, early settlements continue to be favored in most matters. Pre-suit mediation is popular and can be effective if the parties have just enough information to evaluate their positions in the potential litigation. All in all mediation has never been more popular in Florida and other docket-culling measures like mandatory non-binding arbitration are on the rise. Thanks for your readership and paying attention to my musings about all things in modern-day peacemaking. Be well and stay healthy!

Monday, November 2, 2020

ADR Arbitration Advocacy Institute 11/13!

Please join me this month at the ADR Section of The Florida Bar's inaugural Arbitration Advocacy Institute. This innovative program is a one-day, online workshop for attorney-arbitrators that will provide coaching on mechanics, technology and professionalism to help Florida attorneys boost their arbitration advocacy skills. Attendees will increase their knowledge of the arbitration process from beginning to end-- distinct from mediation and litigation-- and participate in virtual clinics for diverse arbitration practice areas. prestigious faculty of over 30 presenters will demonstrate effective and ethical techniques that will enable participants to reach the highest levels of advocacy in arbitration. Login on Friday, November 13, 2020 from 8:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an optional virtual networking hour on November 12 at 5:30 p.m. This course has been approved for 8.5 General CLE credits in Florida 1.0 of which may be applied toward Professionalism, and 1.0 Technology credit. Participants earn 1.5 additional General CLE credits for participation in a Virtual Clinic. Section members $185, non-section members $230 and law students just $60 (includes ADR Section membership)See more information and registration details here-- and

Saturday, October 24, 2020

ADR Rules & Policy Urges Uncertified Mediators Be Bound

Last month, the ADR Rules & Policy Committee of the Florida Supreme Court filed a response to comments on its own proposed rule revisions, stating that the court has the inherent authority and obligation to ensure that the mediation process parties use operates in accordance with mediator rules and standards already adopted. The proposed revisions pertain to the practice and procedures of mediation in the court system and therefore fall under the Court’s authority under Article V, Section 2(a) of the Florida Constitution. The proposed rules require those who mediate court connected cases as part of the machinery of the judicial process to observe the existing rules of mediators, regardless of certification. Mediation has been an integral part of the Florida court process for over thirty years. The committee found it inconsistent and illogical to have one group of professionals in the court process who are subject to no ethical standards and disciplinary process involving the vitally important mediation service they provide to the parties and the court system. Florida court mediators are not only required to be familiar with the statutes and rules governing mediation, but are also obligated to follow court rules of procedure, administrative orders, local rules, and any other rules related to mediation in the court system. ADR Rules & Policy did not yield to criticism found in the comments filed and urged the court to proceed by adopting proposed amendments to Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.710 and 1.750; Florida Small Claims Rule 7.090; Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.290; Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.700; Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.741; and Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators 10.200 and 10.700. The committee stated parties and their attorneys are still free to choose whomever they want to mediate their case without the beneficial boundaries of mediator ethics and a disciplinary system to enforce them, provided that they mediate prior to filing a court case. They may also choose to use any type of ADR process prior to filing a lawsuit. However, the committee made clear it does not believe the creation of an exempt group of compensated court professionals was the intent of the court for mediation in Florida. See more in Case Number: SC20-565 here--