Riverside County Bar Association Mission Statement
To serve our members, our communities, and our legal system.
2013-2014 President of the Riverside County Bar Association - Jacqueline Carey-Wilson
I have both mediated many disputes over the years, as the youngest of eight children and mother of three daughters. A parent can nudge children to settle disputes using his or her authoritarian power, with a time-out or loss of a privilege (such as cell phone use) as punishment for refusing to compromise. Judges can use their power in a similar way to mediate a dispute between the parties on the eve of trial. For example, if the parties do not want to settle, the judge can call in the jury in to start the trial.
As the eighth child, I often mediated disputes between my seven siblings (six sisters and one brother). Unlike a parent or trial judge, however, I did not have any real power. What I could do was to encourage the two that were angry at the time to see the other sibling’s point of view. Sometimes this worked and other times it did not. When the dispute was just about clothes or chores, mediation could work. However, when one sibling hurt the other in some way, this was more difficult to mediate. This is analogous to mediating between two parties in a civil suit. A case involving property damage is much easier to mediate than one in which when an individual has been hurt in some way. Family law disputes in particular are very difficult to mediate. However, these types of disputes can be, and are, mediated every day.
At the Riverside County Bar Association we have a Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) in which dedicated and experienced attorneys, who have been in practice ten years or more, have agreed to mediate civil cases. Depending on the type of dispute or facts at issue, you may want a different type of assistance to resolve or refine the case.
DRS offers the following services to parties in resolving disputes:
Arbitration: The court or the parties enter into an agreement with DRS to provide a neutral third party to review the case and evidence and render a decision. The arbitration offered by DRS can be binding or nonbinding.
Mediation: When the parties agree to mediate a case, DRS provides a neutral third party to negotiate with both sides to settle their dispute. In this type of service, the parties decide the terms of the settlement..
Settlement Conference: DRS can arrange for a neutral third party to meet informally with the parties to discuss and explore options for resolving the dispute.
Mini-Trials: This service allows the parties to present their case to a neutral third party, who renders a nonbinding decision. A jury can be also used.
Neutral Case Evaluation: One side in a dispute can present their case to a neutral third party, who will assess the strengths and weaknesses of their argument and provide a valuation of the case.
Fact-Finding: In some cases, like accounting disputes, where there is extensive evidence, DRS can provide a neutral third party to comb through the evidence and decide factual disputes.
Adjudication by Referee-Pro Tem Judge: Through DRS, the parties can select a neutral third party to act as a regular sitting judge to hear a court trial. A court reporter is present and the parties have the right to appeal the judge’s decision as if the matter was heard before a superior court judge. The advantages of this service are that the parties can choose a certain date and conclude the case without interruption.
DRS rates are low. The fee is $300 an hour for up to four parties, with $50 for each additional party. Services can be scheduled within days or weeks of request. All matters are kept confidential by DRS.
With legal disputes, as with family disputes, sometimes a neutral third party is enough to resolve a matter, whereas sometimes a strong hand is needed to decide a dispute. Fortunately, DRS provides both of these services and many more to help resolve cases.
The federal and state courts in Riverside County provide other mediation options, even on appeal. In the March issue of the Riverside Lawyer, you will find articles on the Superior Court’s family law voluntary settlement conferences, mediation in residential real estate transactions, the mediation program in the Central District, and the Court of Appeal’s mediation program. In addition, the Honorable Gary B. Tranbarger (ret) offers a judge’s perspective on mediation and attorney Ed Fernandez describes his journey to becoming a mediator.
Mediation is a critical tool for resolving cases as Riverside County struggles with the loss of judicial resources. The population in Riverside County has more than doubled since 1989, from 1,057,200 then to 2,227,577 in 2012. According to the Judicial Council of California 2013 Statistics Report, Riverside County Superior Court had 5,718 filings per judicial position, the fourth highest number amongst the state’s 58 counties. Riverside County has a verified need for 138 judges and currently has only 76. San Bernardino has 86 judges and commissioners combined, and needs 150. The two courts have the highest number of caseloads per judge in the state for large-population counties.
In the Inland Empire, we also have a hard working and underfunded appellate court. The Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Two, which serves Riverside, San Bernardino, and Inyo counties, is estimated to have 615,708 residents per appellate justice, the highest number in the state. The next closest appellate court is the Second District, Division Six, with 382,930 residents per justice.
Senate Bill 1190 has been introduced in the California Senate to fund nine new judicial positions in the Riverside and San Bernardino Superior Courts and two appellate justices in the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Two. This bill would include funding for the accompanying staff for each judicial position. The RCBA is actively lobbying the Legislature to pass SB 1190. I encourage you to urge your representatives in Sacramento to support this vital legislation.
Jacqueline Carey-Wilson is a deputy county counsel with San Bernardino County, editor of the Riverside Lawyer, and past president of the Federal Bar Association, Inland Empire Chapter.