Of the cases heard at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A., about 1/3 are employment related cases according to L.A. Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger. Judge Highberger helped create a pilot settlement program for these cases, and 135 of them were ordered into a “voluntary” “Civil Refereee Assisted Settlement Hearing” program between September 19, 2011 and September 23, 2011. The result: 46 settlements in one week.
The program is run with the use of two experienced employment lawyers assigned to the case, one from the plaintiff’s bar, and one from the defense. The reason the process worked seems to be the level of expertise of the two attorney mediators and the confidence of the litigants that they are getting real world reliable advice on how to see the case.
The program, while “compelled” is free. That’s quite a deal. Two attorneys working on the case for perhaps 5 hours the day of the settlement conference could charge $5,000.00. The attorneys work with a judge or commissioner during the mediation.
[Source: LA Daily Journal 10-07-11]