Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Joint Sessions and the Use of E-Neutrals in ESI Disputes

I am honored to have been featured in the American Bar Association's Dispute Resolution Section's Just Resolutions eNews during this year’s ABA Mediation Week. The theme was “Mediation: Successes, Challenges, Trends and the Next Generation: Looking to the past, present and future.” In looking at where we’ve been and what is to come in civil litigation, one can find a confluence in the growth of electronic information and the need for cooperation in gathering such evidence that it necessarily creates. Electronic Discovery is everywhere. Corporations and small businesses alike utilize computer systems to cut costs, improve production, enhance communication, store data and improve capabilities in this world of constant technological development. The prevalence of electronically stored information or ESI and its associated impact on litigation are readily apparent. E-Discovery has become vital to most cases. Virtually all business information and much private party information can be found only in ESI. At the same time, the costs of collecting, reviewing, and producing ESI reportedly have reached proportions that rival the amount in controversy, itself. This piece considers the role of the E-neutral who can facilitate the electronic discovery process in complex cases by helping parties to agree on key issues while together in joint session, enabling them to focus on the merits of their case. See article here-- http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/uncategorized/dispute_resolution/just-resolutions/kolin_joint_sessions.authcheckdam.pdf

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Other ADR Rules Rejected by Fla. S. Ct.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled on the so-called "Other ADR" case that underwent oral argument this past summer on rule amendments proposed by its own ADR Rules & Policy Committee. This effort was opposed by myself and other members of the ADR Section Executive Council for myriad reasons. The stated purpose-- to establish a set of uniform rules and standards of professional conduct applicable to any dispute resolution process selected by a court for which no rules exist-- was not the issue. Though this effort was supposedly intended to instill and promote public confidence in the use and participation in such processes; that was not the problem either. The ADR Rules & Policy Committee believed the proposed rules and standards of professional conduct would increase the use of ADR, increase party self-determination in the selection of an ADR method or methods, and provide safeguards for parties selecting ADR neutrals performing services for ADR processes for which no other standards of professional conduct exist. Perhaps, but the real defects were in the inconsistencies and lack of clarity in the actual language, which failed to address things like confidentiality and conflicts. The proposal stated the public’s use, understanding, and satisfaction with an Other ADR Process could only be achieved if neutrals embrace the highest ethical principles, but most professional ADR practitioners already have to abide by one or more set of established standards. The ADR Rules & Policy Committee claimed that the time is ripe for revising the procedural rules to address court referral to all types of emerging ADR processes. Discipline was left to the trial judges under the proposed set of rules. If, in the future, rules or standards of professional conduct are promulgated for a process, these rules and standards would then be inapplicable to that new process. In response to the changes, there were several strong criticisms filed, including formal comments by Civil Rules Committee and ADR Section of The Florida Bar, as well as from the Sixth and Eighth judicial circuits and other interested parties. In its per curiam opinion, the Florida Supreme Court declined to adopt the ADR Committee’s proposals: "Given the substantial criticism, alleged deficiencies in the proposals, and other issues raised at oral argument in this matter and in the comments received, we conclude that the time is not yet ripe for rules addressing ADR processes other than those already identified and governed by current court rules." See opinion here-- http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2015/sc14-1852.pdf

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mediation Week 2015

Since 2011, the American Bar Association (ABA) has declared the third week of October “ABA Mediation Week.” The ABA events bolster efforts of many other national, state, and local organizations, including the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), which have traditionally celebrated conflict resolution during October. According to the ABA, Mediation Week celebrates strides made in institutionalizing mediation as one of several dispute resolution processes. For many years, Florida has led the field of alternative dispute resolution which has grown in acceptance, especially as litigation has become more costly and lengthy with electronic discovery. There is certainly wide recognition that the majority of cases are resolved outside of the traditional adversarial process. Litigants, their attorneys and the judges they appear before routinely embrace multiple paths to settling lawsuits out of court, including mediation. The theme for this year’s ABA Mediation Week is: Mediation: Successes, Challenges, Trends and the Next Generation: Looking to the past, present and future. "As lawyers and mediators, we understand both the challenges and rewards of helping parties in conflict reach an agreement by getting past differences in positions, by understanding each other’s perspectives better, and by finding ways to get their important interests met while staying true to their values and belief systems." Programs held during ABA Mediation Week provide neutrals, advocates and policy makers with inspiration and tools necessary to bridge the gap that often prevents amicable resolution of disputes. This year’s theme seeks to recognize the past, present and future of mediation. Read more here-- http://www.americanbar.org/groups/dispute_resolution/resources/mediation_week_toolkit.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pres. Carter to Conduct MLK Mediation

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s heirs wish to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and his famed traveling bible. In Atlanta, a Fulton County Superior Court judge set a mediation deadline that passed last month and previously granted a stay in the case so that the King's daughter could negotiate a deal with her brothers. According to reports, former president, Jimmy Carter, has now agreed to serve as the King siblings’ mediator the ongoing court battle over sale of their father’s possessions. Brothers Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King are suing sister Bernice King over the ownership of the fifty-year-old Nobel Prize and King Bible, apparently used and signed by President Obama during his second inauguration. Bernice King has argued the items are sacred and should remain with the family. King’s estate is controlled by his sons who already sought an order for their sister to surrender the items which are in her possession. In a board of directors meeting last year, they voted 2-1 against Bernice King to sell the two valuable artifacts to a private buyer. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. His widow, Coretta Scott King, died in 2006. Yolanda King, the eldest King child, died in 2007. Originally, as previously covered by this blog, the case was set to go to trial last February. Sibling rivalries are among the toughest challenges for a mediator to solve. There are times when celebrity adult children can navigate their own conflict, but other times require a process affording for the airing of grievances in a non-public forum, such as mediation. President Carter, who recently revealed to the world that he’s begun treatment for cancer that has spread from his liver to his brain, said he is honored to be working with the King family in an effort to resolve the outstanding legal issues relating to their legacy and believes he will be able to resolve the difficult dispute once and for all. See story here-- http://bit.ly/1VDaW0u