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PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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County and courts join for dispute resolution program

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From page A10 | February 01, 2013 | 1 Comment

The County of El Dorado and the Superior Court are partnering to continue the highly successful Alternative Dispute Resolution program. The program is an alternative way to resolve civil disputes without the burden of litigation, according to a prepared statement from the county’s Chief Administrative Office.

The key to Alternative Dispute Resolution is the trained, impartial persons who decide disputes, or help parties decide disputes themselves. The sides typically meet with a Dispute Resolution Officer at a case management conference within 120 days after the case is filed. At the conference they discuss the various procedures for alternative dispute resolution, select the one best suited to their case, and set timelines for completion, usually 60 days after the case management conference.

The most common forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution are mediation, arbitration and case evaluation. In excess of 90 percent of all civil cases filed in El Dorado County Superior Court resolve by agreement, the statement notes.

“Alternative Dispute Resolution is generally a cheaper, faster way to resolve many civil cases, and it allows court and county resources to focus on more critical cases,” said Don Ashton, program coordinator with the CAO’s Office.

Under state law, county government collects an $8 fee on all civil actions filed in court. In turn, the county recently entered into a four-year contract with the court to fund the Alternative Dispute Resolution program.

Since the program’s inception in 1994, the court has reduced the civil case backlog by more than 50 percent. The number of cases pending more than two years has decreased by 75 percent.

Additional information about the Alternative Dispute Resolution program, including a brochure titled, “You Don’t Have to Sue,” is available at eldoradocourt.org/departments/adr.aspx, or by calling 530-621-7629. For other related information, contact Don Ashton at 530-621-5515.

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Discussion | 1 comment

  • Bill SmithFebruary 02, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    I had to laugh at this Mt. Democrat article and some newly hired EDC CAO office bureaucrat’s assessment of the County Court's ADR system as being highly successful in reducing the backlog of civil cases. My business partners and I who had the utmost integrity in our community were the first to be forced into the County's ADR process back in 1994, as we were being sued by an unscrupulous person, waiting to go to trial and a local judge wouldn't grant us summary judgment from the unscrupulous litigant's frivolous civil action against us. My partners and I were being held hostage by an unscrupulous litigant who was using the Court system to extort us in a real estate law case and went on to do it for nearly 5 years. Had that judge done his job and granted summary judgment, my partners and I would have been saved 5 years of frivolous litigation and shakedown by our legal system. Unfortunately, our Superior Court system seems to supporsuch frivolous litigation and seems to ignore the rules of the law that a Judge could follow to free up the court docket. The system seems to support of the attorney brotherhood getting more billable hours and defendants being forced to partake in an Alternative Dispute Resolution shakedown process, before moving on to a real court trial. As a guinea pig of the County's very first ADR, I recall quite well the panel of local attorneys that had been asked to sit on this mock ADR panel in the EDC Supervisor's chambers and who didn't even attempt to follow the strict civil codes of the law, but instead tried to instill some type of socialistic resolution whereby my partners would give the uncivil assailant holding us hostage a portion of our property for free. I then recall being forced to drive to South Lake Tahoe one cold, icy winter morning and hear Judge Terrence Finney's solution that my real estate partners ought to take in the frivolous litigant as a partner in our business and property...whom I responded, "why don't we just invite the Devil into our homes too!" The ADR process can be likened to a Kangaroo Court and could have been better mediated on the Jerry Springer show. I liken it very much to how the State of California conducts its own ADR's whereby some cherry picked attorney hired by the State for a predisposed legal outcome, who often is not knowledgeable in the complicated matter they are overseeing, plays judge, jury and executioner and the defendant is often caught up in a contrived, non-legal adjudicated determination that doesn't follow the strict codes of the law or BAJI (Jury Instructions for Judges and Attorneys), now replaced by CACI (California Civil Jury Instructions). What most people don't understand is that you don't have to participate in these ADR's and just demand a court trial. It's a shame that our Court judges don't seem to want to grant you Summary Judgment or use other legal methods granted to them to obtain a quick resolution to your case and instead force you into these contrived ADR processes and coddle frivolous litigants. You will hear the usual complaints out of them that they have too much workload, have to give priority to criminal cases, that the courts are too busy with criminal cases, etc., etc. All I can tell you is that since 1994 our local Court system budget and bureaucracy has swelled, the CAO's office has swelled, the Court system has become much more computerized, the County created an Office of the Courts staffed with more bureaucrats, they spend millions of dollars a year on Court House improvements but the system doesn't seem to get better and is still log jammed - I liken it to a fiefdom. I am not saying that our Judges don't work hard, but they seem to not want to use the methods already granted to them and take action, it's too easy to push off a summary judgment decision onto an ADR process. For innocent defendants of frivolous civil litigation, the ADR process is nothing more than a Shakedown Process that rewards frivolous litigants and penalizes law abiding citizens. Don't stand for it and demand a Jury Trial that follows the law.

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