Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Non-binding Arb Rule Comments due 5/2!

The Civil Rules Standing Committee of The Florida Bar is proposing changes to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.820 regarding hearing procedures for Non-Binding Arbitration. This informal and expeditious Alternative Dispute Resolution process is being utilized more and more to clear dockets backlogged from Covid, Hurricanes and general lack of trial dates. Judges in many Florida Circuit Courts are referring cases to this process and so some changes are being put out for comment. Among the changes are serving the award on the parties rather than filing with the court under seal. This is likely because many of our 67 counties have no pull down menu for filing under seal and can lead to awards being seen inadvertently by the judicial officer presiding over the case. Another change contemplates maintaining the original exhibits through the end of the case. I'm not sure arbitrators want to become deputy court clerks warehousing records, but parties can agree to do it themselves. Interested persons should send comments to: before May 2, 2023. See more here--

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Arb Going Back To Cali

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently blocked a California law that prohibited employers from requiring their workers to resolve legal disputes in private arbitration, ruling that it conflicts with federal law. A panel affirmed the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 51 with respect to arbitration agreements governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Since 2020, California was first to ban mandatory arbitration of all employment-related disputes in the wake of the #MeToo movement. New York and New Jersey similarly passed laws prohibiting mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims, but California's statute was much broader. Employers were prohibited from requiring individuals to sign as a condition of employment or employment-related benefits arbitration agreements concerning disputes arising under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or Labor Code. In affirming the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction, a majority of the Ninth Circuit panel used U.S. Supreme Court precedent that states rules burdening the formation of arbitration agreements are an obstacle to legislative intent of and preempted by the FAA. The court also noted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First and Fourth Circuits reached similar conclusions when confronted with state laws that attempted to prevent parties from entering arbitration agreements. The court rejected arguments from the State of California that it should sever clauses that were deemed preempted by the FAA and leave the remainder of the law intact. The court found AB 51 could not be dissected as the statute’s provisions all work together to burden the formation of arbitration agreements and there was no authority in the legislation to sever the penalty portions of the law. If the State of California does not get a rehearing en banc or pursue further appeal, the matter will return to the district court to proceed for a final determination on the legality of AB 51. See reporting here-- and and latest decision here--

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Valentine's date? Arb Forum 2/14

Join us for the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section of the Florida Bar's next Arbitrator's Forum on February 14, 2023 at 8 am EST live on Zoom. Invite a fellow arbitrator or litigator to this complimentary event on Valentine's Day as we speak to statewide practitioners about their preferences and practices. This month, we will discuss “What Arbitrators Need To Know About Remedies, Attorney's Fees, Punitive Damages, and More!” The Florida Bar ADR Section's standing Arbitration Committee instituted the forum series last year to create a community of better informed arbitration neutrals in our state. We listen and learn from each other by talking through common arbitration challenges and how they might be better resolved. Our discussion is frank and encourages participation by all. Please also consider becoming an official ADR Section member as lawyers from those practice areas dealing with arbitration join their full-time neutrals colleagues to discuss what works, what confounds, and how to improve skills in this growing field. See more here--

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Orlando Mediator Top 5 Dispute Resolution Blog

Happy New Year! My little old legal blog, now a dozen years online, again received the honor of being named among the top five Alternative Dispute Resolution blogs out of thousands of blogs on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority and freshness. I'm certainly in some good company with top dispute resolution blogs around the world that actually have staff. Orlando Mediator is recognized by Feedspot among the best, including such distinguished blogs published by big names like Thompson Reuters, Harvard Program on Negotiation and Kluwer. Feedspot's experts chose Orlando Mediator as number five in the world for what their founder calls the most comprehensive list of Top 20 Dispute Resolution Blogs on the planet! Feedspot says it is the internet’s largest human curated database of bloggers and podcasts. Their list combines RSS feeds allowing users to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator. I am humbled to know this labor of love for my chosen field is appreciated. I do enjoy keeping everyone informed on the latest trends and happenings in mediation and related fields through this outlet. Thanks for your readership and support over the years! The full list is available here--

Thursday, December 8, 2022

FL S. Ct. Improved Resolution Workgroup Rules OA

The Supreme Court of Florida heard oral argument today on a package of rules proposed by their appointed Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases that might forever impact our state court system in a major way. These amendments are proposed as a paradigm shift to change the legal community and the perceived problems such as that current rules engender delay culture and firmer deadlines move cases. Firm trial dates, dates for discovery cutoffs and dispositive motions that are enforced by active case management can promote efficient resolution of cases according to the judges creating these proposed rules. Hearing time is a precious commodity that is often wasted with cancellation as are trial weeks according to Chief Judge Morris of the 2d DCA who reports that a mere 0.04% of cases end up in trial. Some judges appearing advocated the integration of county clerks' computer systems and the judicial case systems to alleviate duplication and promote standardization such as PACER in the federal system. The Civil Rules Committee chair said the adoption of the federal summary judgment rule brought the case law relied on in that system for clarity, but cautioned that the wide swath of changes to aggressive case management would shock the system and create growing pains with litigation on those changes. Justice Canady, who oversaw the Covid-19 crisis in the courts, said serving the litigants was the reason emergency procedures were ordered and now the court wants to see how to institutionalize those changes that proved successful in getting cases at issue during the pandemic. Justice Polston expressed concern with cases that are falling far behind or that just plain languish. He was also concerned parties should be exempt from the case management rubric in cases that are subject to Arbitration. Justice Labarga said when he was a trial judge, lawyers did not adhere to deadlines, especially with experts. Justice Muniz questioned why not implement proportionality in discovery like federal court and was told by a sophisticated commenter that our state system was just not ready to address that. The bar's Business Law Section is in favor of proportionality and also agreed with imposing track rules on cases except for presumptive streamlining of bench trials. The Appellate Rules Committee did not like substantive standards of review found in a few of these procedural rules. Probate practitioners were concerned about the disparity in dockets around the state and increased judicial decisionmaking versus routine uncontested proceedings. Critics of the sweeping package took issue with the lack of resources to implement these changes and technical irreconcilable differences between some of the rules. Others feared increased sanctions and less continuances. Judge Bailey responded on behalf of her workgroup arguing that because civil justice costs too much and takes too long, the public has lost faith and these case management changes are needed. While there were concerns over standardizing hearing procedures, everyone agreed an educational effort is needed in conjunction with the rollout of these rules. See more here-- and Case No. SC22-122

Thursday, November 3, 2022

SDFL Rules Favor Remote Attendance

Next month, new mediation rules take effect in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. After hearing from the bar on format and giving the public an opportunity to comment, the federal court decided in favor of remote attendance. Unless the court orders otherwise, under Local Rule 16.2, Court Annexed Mediation, the parties shall decide whether their mediation conference will be conducted in person or by video-conference and, if the parties cannot agree, the mediation conference shall be held by video-conference. Additionally, unless excused in writing by the court, all parties and required claims professionals (e.g., insurance adjusters) must participate in the mediation conference with full authority to negotiate a settlement which includes connecting and participating by video and audio. Lately, we've seen some parties appear with black screens, muted on Zoom. This change seems to attempt to address that trend and level the playing field, alleviating the need for mediators to compromise their neutrality in acting as policemen for the process. See more here for rules that take effect December 1, 2022--

Monday, October 17, 2022

Mediation Week 2022

Every October, we celebrate the impact of the mediation process and its professionals on the many disputes in the world. Mediation Week in Florida and elsewhere marks the importance of dispute resolution as an effective substitute to litigation. In fact, mediation has helped litigants get through our recent challenges, evolving to widely accepted remote attendance allowing parties to resolve disputes without trial in a still backed-up court system. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been used by Florida courts for more than 30 years. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) will now serve as an official option following the pandemic through sessions conducted with readily available technology. Florida's Dispute Resolution Center continues to require specific standards set by the Florida Supreme Court in the areas of county, family, circuit, dependency, and appellate mediation during these virtual sessions. Mediation week brings annual focus on ADR work and highlights how individuals, administrative agencies, and businesses can use mediation to develop efficient and customized solutions to conflicts. Just by searching #mediationweek online, you may find a variety of resources from venerable organizations like the American Bar Association (ABA) or the Federal Mediation and Concilliation Service (FMCS) which is celebrating its 75th anniversary with free programs on cutting-edge topics, practices, and examinations on conflict prevention, management, and resolution this week. See more here--