LA COURT CLOSES MEDIATION PROGRAM
The Los Angeles County Superior Court (LASC) was forced to substantially reduce access to justice for hundreds of thousands of citizens residing in Los Angeles due to substantial budget cuts. LASC closed a number of district courts, consolidated cases in downtown Central District,and reduced staffing. “L.A. County court eliminated more than500jobs thisweek,” LATimes,HaileyBranson-Potts, June11,2013. This resulted in larger case loads for judicial officers, longer waits to get to trial, increased legal fees, and frustration for the entire community.
Among the most important and beneficial programs operated by the LASC was its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. This program was administered by a staff of over 25 persons both in the Central District as well as the out lying districts. More than 10,000 cases per year were as signed by the court to approximately 900 qualified mediators, some of whom were lawyers and others were professionals trained in other areas of service.
By closing the entire ADR program and dismissing the staff, not only do judges and their staff now feel the pinch of increased case loads, but litigants now have longer distances to drive and longer waits to have access to a courtroom. There was no alternative to the Court’s ADR system for the 10,000 cases a year that it administered. The inability to resolve disputes through mediation is burden some and financially devastating to people who need immediate resolution of their cases.
While there exists a market of private mediators available through high priced panels, the problem is that most mediators who are in the private sector charge between $400 per hour to$10,000 or more per day for their services, a price that is truly out of reach of most litigants. Valley Bar Mediation Center now offers the only program of its kind in Los Angeles County providing professional, skilled mediators to underserved communities.