Appellate, Business/Commercial, Class Action/Mass Tort, Construction Defect, Insurance, Intellectual Property, Employment, Professional Liability, Personal Injury/Torts, Product Liability, Real Property
Hon. Richard D. Aldrich (Ret.) joins JAMS following his distinguished 26-year judicial career, most recently serving as an Associate Justice on the California Court of Appeal, Second District. Previously, he served on the Ventura County Superior Court. During his time on the Bench, Justice Aldrich authored many significant opinions and made significant contributions to the advancement of ADR. He was also instrumental in defining processes for complex case management.
Prior to joining the bench, Justice Aldrich had a legal career that spanned 28 years. In private practice, Justice Aldrich practiced civil trial law and tried cases in diverse areas including medical malpractice, legal malpractice, complex civil cases including class actions, products liability, and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled disputes involving real property, construction defect, and toxic tort cases. Justice Aldrich has had extensive experience in insurance coverage disputes and fair claims handling practices. As a lawyer he handled numerous insurance bad faith claims.
In his approach to ADR, Justice Aldrich believes a mediated solution allows all parties to fully articulate their factual and legal positions and with the aid of a neutral and experienced mediator arrive at an agreement that brings closure to the dispute and eliminates the emotional and financial toll involved in protracted court proceedings. Justice Aldrich takes a managerial approach to arbitration making sure to schedule the hearing at the earliest possible time consistent with allowing the parties to timely complete discovery and prepare their case.
Justice Aldrich frequently speaks on ADR related topics including nearly 20 years on faculty of the B.E. Witkin California Judicial College teaching "Civil Settlement Techniques." He has also has taught seminars on best practices in handling insurance claims.
Q&A with Hon. Richard Aldrich (Ret.)
Q: Arbitration was long thought to be a more efficient and cost effective means of resolving disputes. However, arbitrations increasingly resemble civil litigation in court, with extensive discovery, discovery motions, pretrial motions in limine, etc. In some particularly complex cases, that may be appropriate. Do you agree, and what can be done to return to a more streamlined approach to arbitration?
-- John Hueston, Hueston Hennigan LLP
A: Today, civil courts are bogged down with litigation. In the Los Angeles Superior Court, I am told, that it takes as long as six months to have a demurrer heard in the court to which the case is assigned. The benefit of private arbitration is to afford the parties with timely and appropriate case management. An effective arbitrator will bring the parties together early to plan discovery, dispositive motions, and avoid the necessity of protracted law and motion practice. Definitive goals should be set by the arbitrator at the outset of the case and definite time limits should be set so that all parties can anticipate and plan for an arbitration date at the earliest practicable time. In the meanwhile, an effective arbitrator may, with the approval of all parties, effectuate various ADR modalities such as mediation in an attempt to settle the dispute without the need for a full arbitration hearing. Handled efficiently, an arbitration can be a cost effective and satisfactory method of resolving disputes that cannot be otherwise settled.
Q: When do you begin the process of a successful mediation in a complex matter? Do you contact the parties in advance after receipt of the mediation briefs to gather intelligence, collect thoughts, answer questions, etc.?
-- David Willingham, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP
A: Yes! In a complex case "knowledge is power." The more knowledge the mediator has at the beginning of the mediation the better he or she will be able to discover the parties' objectives in the litigation. This is the most important tool the mediator has in effectuating a settlement. Further, no matter how complex the case appears at first glance, there are usually common patterns and themes that become apparent during the progress of the case. It's much better to discover those common patterns or themes earlier rather than later. It also saves time and expenses for the parties if the mediator is totally up to speed at the beginning of the mediation.
Q: When a mediator comes to a session only mildly prepared, it does not feel like the parties get their money's worth for the day. What do you do to prepare for a mediation to ensure it is effective, and what do you ask of both sides to help prepare?
-- Rick Richmond, Jenner & Block LLP
A: I ask the parties for mediation briefs which would include a brief statement of the facts and any applicable law. If this is a case involving experts, I would ask the parties to provide any depositions of the experts or if no deposition has been taken, any reports that the expert has rendered. I make it clear that under no circumstances will the reports be shared with the opposing side unless they parties agree to such a disclosure. Having read the depositions or reports, it saves time in the mediation and it gives me a much better understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party's position. If the mediation briefs are incomplete or raise questions, I will call the attorney for the party to answer any questions or fill in any missing information. I also ask wither there have been any demands or offers. Sometimes, a case can go on for years without either side talking about settlement.