Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Orange County ODR Pilot Program

Today at the Orange County Bar Association's Judicial Relations Committee meeting, it was announced that Small Claims parties in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Court will soon be able to utilize an online dispute resolution (ODR) program for a total cost of $25. The vendor, Tyler Technologies, is already known to court administration because of its Odyssey case management system license. This add-on service uses Modria software which was acquired by Tyler after success demonstrated in resolving business to consumer e-commerce transactions. Chief Judge Myers said the first 1,396 mediation cases would be handled at no cost to the court. Since 1992, there has been a $15,000 limit on damages in civil suits filed on the county court level. With the recent bill signed by Governor DeSantis increasing the small claims amount in controversy limit to $30,000 come January 1, 2020, the county judges are preparing for how to handle more volume. The limit goes even higher-- to $50,000 by January 1, 2022. The $15,000 limit remains in place for cases filed before December 31, 2019. The plan, according to a representative at the Orange County Clerk's office, is to roll something out this fall. ODR is touted as helping individuals resolve legal cases without having to set foot in a courtroom. The concept is a simple back and forth online negotiation replaces the need to appear or take time off work to spend time in a government building. See legislation here-- and current programs here--

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Water Wars Persist

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court substituted a court-appointed Special Master (since deceased) after rejecting his ruling recommending Florida had not proven its case “by clear and convincing evidence” that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use would benefit Florida water systems and remanding because he “applied too strict a standard” in rejecting Florida’s claim. The rejected recommended ruling in the decades-long Water Wars favored Georgia. In the year after swapping for Special Master Honorable Paul J. Kelly, Jr., a Senior Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to make further findings regarding Florida's claim it suffered harm from the overconsumption of water by Georgia, not much has transpired. This past spring, Florida submitted a motion for oral argument which remains pending. Florida asserts the first Special Master found that Georgia’s upstream water use was unreasonable and that the Supreme Court already rejected an additional finding that nothing could be done because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the reservoirs in the river system, is not a party to the case. Florida seeks a cap on consumption that would alleviate past damage allegedly caused by Georgia. Georgia’s still claims any limits on its water use would undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southwestern Georgia. Florida wants to limit Georgia’s water consumption from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, including Lake Lanier, to 1992 levels and to get reparations for alleged economic and environmental harm to Apalachicola's oyster fisheries from drought. Georgia maintains Florida has failed to prove harm to the aquatic species. This blog has followed the Water Wars for years in other entries. Hopefully, a resolution will occur this year. See more detail in docket here--