I have written about the court crisis before, and that crisis continues. This past month all California courts, including family law courts, experienced court closures and massive lay-offs. This situation is so bad that the family law court in downtown Los Angeles (Central District) has seized up, practically bringing all matters to a halt in order to implement an entirely new process of handling the caseload. No one fully understands the new process – not even the judges. This is scary and litigants should think carefully about seeking their “day in court” because it will involve a lot of money, time and uncertainty to do so.
“Sit and Wait” Is Costly
The time element should be obvious: fewer courtrooms, less staff and larger caseloads combine to make things move slowly. What may not be obvious is how this creates increased financial cost for the litigants. Due to the decreased resources at the courthouse, the judges simply do not have the time to hear contested matters in consecutive hours or days at a time. Rather, complex and simple matters alike are heard in piecemeal fashion. This means, a litigant might get 3 hours of the court’s time on one day, but maybe only 30 minutes another day – often weeks later. In order to get this time from the court, whether it is 30 minutes or 3 hours, the lawyers and experts must be at the courthouse and ready to be heard by the judge any time the opportunity arises. Therefore, the litigant is paying these professionals by the hour to “sit and wait.” This is expensive.
Private Judges Are Efficient
While not everyone wants to engage in mediation as an alternative form of dispute resolution, there is still another option which is very often less expensive than the “sit and wait” approach in the public courthouse: private judging. Hiring a private judge to handle the case – all of it or just an aspect of it – is likely less expensive for the overall litigation budget because there is no “sitting and waiting” taking place. The judge is hired and scheduled for one proceeding, and from the moment it starts the lawyers, experts and the judge are working to resolve the dispute in an efficient manner.
The orders from the private judge have the same effect as orders obtained from the judge in the public courthouse. However, the process is much more efficient because the judge is focused on only one case at a time. There are many other advantages to using a private judge. One of our very well known private judges in California, Hon. Jill S. Robbins, wrote a fascinating article on how private judges are used in the state. Although the article was written a couple of years ago, her points remain relevant.
It is my opinion that in every case where there is significant litigation taking place, private judging should be considered. See if you agree after reading Hon. Jill S. Robbins’ article.