Thursday, June 28, 2012

RMFM Rebooted: Orange County Foreclosure Mediation Program

The so-called RMFM has just become the OCFM or Orange County Foreclosure Mediation Program, administered by the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA). With the originally mandated statewide program abruptly halted by Chief Justice Charles Canady of the Supreme Court of Florida, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. took initiative and by Administrative Order 2012-06, created a new residential mortgage foreclosure program with the OCBA as Program Manager. The stakeholders, including lenders and consumer advocates, committed to new features of the program, such as that the overall cost has been reduced to $500 per case and homeowners pay $250 to participate. There was no fee previously and the hope is to attract serious borrowers who, by having skin in the game, are committed to the process and staying in their homes. Homeowners can first attend free seminars on the process and perceived benefits of participating. There will also be collaboration with the Legal Aid Society providing personal, specific education for borrowers and pre-screening for lenders. Mediators will be drawn exclusively from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, but now only receive $150 per session-- half the previous rate. The program mediators will be assigned by computer and there is no minimum number guaranteed. The entire process has been expedited to operate within 100 days. For more information, see: and

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Florida Bar ADR Section Update

Yesterday, I attended the Executive Council meeting of The Florida Bar's ADR Section, first formed in 2010. As outgoing chair of the Orange County Bar Association's ADR Committee, which I petitioned for and founded last summer, I reported on the progress of our local bar group and the programs put on in the inaugural year. Much like the OCBA committee, the big bar's section provides a forum for lawyers interested in alternative dispute resolution and to share common interests, ideas and concepts. The section also provides a source for advocacy involving all forms of alternative dispute resolution and makes formal recommendations to the Supreme Court of Florida Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules and Policy. Any member in good standing with The Florida Bar interested in the purpose of the section is eligible for membership. Among the proposals for the next bar year, the ADR section plans to amend its by-laws to include inactive members of the Florida Bar who need not be Certified Mediators. A discussion was had about the various newly created residential foreclosure programs in circuits around the state since the disbanding of the state's uniform program. Also discussed, were efforts to bring about a change in CME reporting to the Dispute Resolution Center which would push reporting from two to every three years and in sync with one's Florida Bar reporting date for CLE. Another proposal seeks to make DV credits only part of requirements for Family Law Certified Mediators. The section is exploring hosting its own website, social media pages and a possible listserv. The section will also seek to implement guidelines for amicus involvement in rules cases. A survey will be sent to the over eight hundred members of the new section, asking for feedback. Finally, the section voted to donate $1,000 to The Florida Bar Foundation as a gesture of support for the organization which recently suffered a loss in funding and remains a crucial part of pro bono efforts throughout the state. More information here- and

Friday, June 22, 2012

E-Service and E-Filing to be mandatory in FL

In a pair of opinions, the Supreme Court of Florida formally adopted proposed amendments to the Florida rules of court to implement mandatory electronic filing procedures for all documents filed in Florida’s courts. The proposed amendments represent a significant and important step toward the goal of a fully electronic court system by transitioning from permissive to mandatory electronic filing or e-filing. Also in furtherance of this goal, in a separate, related case the justices adopted amendments to the rules of court to require e-mail service of pleadings and documents between parties. All 67 county clerks of court have been directed to be prepared to accept e-filings through the statewide e-portal in the civil divisions by July 1, 2012-- but a subsequent filing by the E-Filing Authority indicates several clerks are still experiencing difficulties that would prevent them from accepting electronic filings on that date. Any clerk may submit a request with the Florida Supreme Court to delay the effective date of these rules in any division or court. If such a request is granted, an Administrative Order will be issued and published. However, mandatory e-service under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 will begin July 1st for attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases. Service by e-mail is deemed complete when the e-mail is sent. Additionally, e-mail service is made by attaching a copy of the document to be served in PDF format to an e-mail. The e-mail must contain the subject line "SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT" in all capital letters, followed by the case number of the relevant proceeding. The body of the e-mail must identify the court in which the proceeding is pending, the case number, the name of the initial party on each side, the title of each document served with that e-mail, and the sender’s name and telephone number. The e-mail and attachments together may not exceed 5 megabytes in size; e-mails that exceed the size requirement must be divided into separate e-mails (no one of which may exceed 5 megabytes) and labeled sequentially in the subject line. Given the delay from oral argument last year to passage of these e-rules, it is possible electronic discovery rule amendments in Florida argued earlier this year may be adopted later than expected. That would be consistent with comments made regarding the need for educating the bench and bar on the proposals to include ESI in existing civil rules. See full opinions here - and UPDATE: 6/26/12 - Florida Supreme Court sua sponte amends its opinion to change the mandatory date for e-mail service in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases, from July 1, 2012, to September 1, 2012 - SECOND CORRECTED OPINION: 6/28/12 -

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mediation may keep Joint Strike Fighter production going

Lockheed Martin, biggest supplier the Pentagon, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) agreed to meet federal mediators to settle a strike that began over eight weeks ago over pension and health benefits. Apparently, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), an independent federal agency, initiated the move after getting in touch with both sides. Lockheed, under pressure from the Pentagon to reduce its labor and pension costs, hired scabs to maintain production at the plant where it builds F-35 fighter jets. The parties are reportedly hopeful the FMCS can provide the independent perspective that often produces the framework for a resolution and are said to welcome the opportunity to find a resolution to the strike. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last week dismissed three unfair labor practice charges filed by the union against Lockheed. The company appreciated the decision, saying its negotiators had bargained in good faith with the union. See story here -

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chinese iPad? Confucius say: Mediate

Apple's newest iPad is still unavailable in China. Apparently, the Higher People’s Court of Guangzhou began hearing an appeal by Apple following a Chinese lower court's ruling in favor of a Chinese tech company, Proview, that claims ownership of the trademark in China. The court’s foreign affairs office states the court will withhold judgment as long as both parties continue talking. Proview’s lawyer confirms mediation will continue, though a “big gap” remains between the two sides, according to reports. Proview seeks up to $1.5 billion. Revenue from China accounts for almost twenty percent of Apple’s total. In China, mediation is a way of life and litigation is seen as a last resort, embarrassing to honor and the community. Harmony, professed by Confucius to be valuable in governance and social order, is a principle to which Chinese culture adheres. Mediation by a third party has a long history dating back as early three thousand years ago, during the Xi Zhou Dynasty. Perhaps this tradition will help resolve a modern technology dispute involving one of the world's most coveted gadgets. See more information at and UPDATE: 7/2/12 - Apple pays $60 million to settle iPad trademark dispute in Chinese high court-mediated deal See story

Thursday, June 14, 2012

AMR gets TRO in suit to stop NMB scheduled union election

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines (AA) sued the National Mediation Board (NMB) to block it from holding a union election. The airline claimed under a new federal law that the union needs support from at least half of its ten thousand agents before holding an election among the largest group of nonunion workers at AA. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Means found that AA was likely to prevail a lawsuit seeking to stop the election among passenger-service agents, and granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) on voting that was set to begin next week. The Communications Workers of America sought to represent AA's agents. The union had joined the case on the mediation board's side. AMR Corp. and AA sued the U.S. mediation board in federal district court because Congress raised the minimum support to fifty percent in an aviation bill signed into law in February. The mediation board sided with the union and decided this month to go ahead with an agent election. AMR Corp. and AA filed for bankruptcy protection last year and are seeking to void contracts with current unions of pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. A federal bankruptcy judge in New York is scheduled to rule on that request next week. See stories at and UPDATE 6/22/12: The court found the National Mediation Board used the wrong standard when it authorized the election. As such, the NMB “acted in excess of its delegated authority,” according to U.S. District Judge Means. The ruling comes as the airline seeks $1.25B in annual labor cost reductions as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lane postponed a ruling to next week on whether AA can scrap union contracts. See

Friday, June 8, 2012

Did mediation save Triple Crown?

This week, a federal mediator settled a labor dispute at Belmont Park that threatened I’ll Have Another’s chance of winning thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown in more than 30 years. New York's Governor Cuomo urged both sides to reach agreement in a dispute over maintenance and starting gate workers at the racetrack. About 150 union members at NYRA’s tracks have been working without a contract for over a year after the previous contract was given a one-year extension. The workers authorized a strike to begin today, a day before the running of the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in the Triple Crown. Now it's up to I’ll Have Another to become the first horse to win the coveted crown since Affirmed in 1978, so place your bets. See stories - and UPDATE Noon 6/8: Guess not - would-be champion scratched from race -

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Time Out for NFL Refs

NFL Referees and the National Football League are headed to federal mediation in negotiations over a new labor agreement. Reports are that the NFL has already instructed its scouts to begin preparing for the possibility that replacement officials could be used during the upcoming season if a deal is not struck. Last year, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (an independent agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation) mediated negotiations between the league and the players’ union before the lockout. The league and the players did not return to that FMCS mediation, though negotiations resumed when litigation ensued, ultimately producing a 10-year labor agreement completed last summer. A federal court-appointed mediator oversaw settlement talks after players dissolved their union and filed an antitrust case against owners. In this matter, the refs and league are apparently intent on reaching a deal without litigation. See article - and FMCS announcement