By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

 

Amidst major opposition from the Los Angeles County Bar Association, a resolution that would have asked the Legislature to mandate that parties who enter mediation in civil cases must compenste the mediator and bear the costs of said mediation was withdrawn at Sunday’s session of the Conference of California Bar Associations also known as the Conference of Delegates. 

The Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Delegation had lobbied extensively against the measure at and before the Conference which was held in San Diego.  According to the Metropolitan News, the chair of the delegation, James W. Gilliam Jr. of Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, had contacted every chair from every bar association in California regarding LACBA’s opposition.

In light of extensive opposition, The Beverly Hills Bar Association withdrew its Resolution 13-04-09. It had put forth a similar resolution last year which was defeated by a majority vote against the recommendation of the conference’s Resolutions Committee.

It is presently unclear as to why the BHBA withdrew its resolution given the fact that the Resolutions Committee recommended approval and a majority of the delegations took a preliminary position in support of the measure.

Currently under Los Angeles Superior Court’s current court mediation program, most of the cases handled by the court go to mediation.   In those cases, the parties do not have to pay for mediation services but can choose to do so to gain an additional choice of mediators.   Under California law, a court can only order a case to mediation if the value of the case is less than  $50,000.  In all other cases, the parties must volunteer to go to mediation.  In Los Angeles, such an election is made on a form filed with the court as part of the case management conference. 

As with last year’s proposed resolution, the measure included language requiring the parties who voluntarily stipulate to mediation to bear the costs of that proceeding.

The measure would have allowed indigent persons to seek a waiver of the fee. 

This issue has had considerable exposure in Los Angeles and has been the subject of significant heated debates regarding this issue.  It is obvious with the withdrawal of this resolution, that this issue will continue to be a hotbed of legal debate for the near future.

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