Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Florida Mediator Rule Changes Coming

The Supreme Court of Florida's Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules and Policy (Rules and Policy Committee) today invited all interested persons to comment on proposed amendments to small claims, county, civil, family, juvenile, and appellate state court rules of procedure regarding mediation. According to the Rules and Policy Committee, the amendments are intended to protect the public by ensuring that any individual who mediates cases pending before any state court shall be subject to the ethical standards and discipline procedures in the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators. The amendments originated as Rules and Policy Committee work product that was circulated to the ADR community in 2017. The Executive Council of the ADR Section of The Florida Bar deliberated on this matter then and voted in favor of a mandatory certification for court connected cases. However, after receiving feedback and engaging in its own careful deliberation, the Rules and Policy Committee revised its proposal to meet the interests of both the ADR and legal communities while continuing to meet the goals of the Long-Range Strategic Plan for the Florida Judicial Branch 2016-2021, to “maintain a professional, ethical and skilled judiciary and workforce.” The 2017 amendments proposed that all pending court cases be mediated by a Florida Supreme Court certified mediator. The 2019 amendments are now offered instead of those amendments. The amendment to each set of procedural rules will require that any mediator who mediates a state court action does so subject to the ethical standards the Supreme Court has imposed on all certified and court-appointed mediators irrespective of whether the mediator is certified, non-certified, or court-appointed. All individuals who mediate cases pending before any state court shall be subject to discipline and the existing procedures. Please send comments for the Committee to the Florida Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) by July 8, 2019, to DRCmail@flcourts.org. You may comments send via mail to: Florida Dispute Resolution Center, Supreme Court Building, 500 S. Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399; or fax at (850) 922-9290

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Class Arbitration Attacked Again

Recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have supported the underlying concept codified in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), but have demanded clarity in the drafting of agreements seeking implementation of an arbitration process through which to dispose of disputes. Recently, in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, the Court found neither silence nor ambiguity in an arbitration agreement regarding the permissibility of class arbitration enables a court to find that the parties agreed to permit class arbitration. According to the Court, consent is fundamental to arbitration. Arbitration agreements must be express and unambiguous because it would so drastically alter the nature of the proceeding from the simple bilateral process that was envisioned in the FAA. Rules of ADR organizations such as JAMS or AAA incorporated by reference into the agreement that contain ancillary rules under which arbitrators could conduct class proceedings had no effect on the Court’s decision. This implies that mere incorporation of other procedural rules is not a sufficient basis to infer an agreement to permit class arbitration either. The Court emphasized that class arbitration proceedings are fundamentally different in nature from bilateral arbitrations envisioned by the FAA. Class arbitrations sacrifice the informality of the contemplated bilateral process, as well as its speed, simplicity, and relative inexpensiveness, and instead produce a slower, more costly, and more complex process that looks like “the litigation it was meant to displace." See full analysis here-- https://bit.ly/2HlFvdW and opinion here-- https://bit.ly/2GvzOZm