As many litigators have no doubt noticed throughout Orange County and beyond, courtrooms are simply disappearing. Departments are being consolidated, judges are being asked to take on more work, court staffs are being shuffled around, and so forth. While Los Angeles County has made some recent headlines (150 more workers laid off last month), this is far from an LA problem. As our State continues to suffer massive budgetary and spending problems, the court system is yet another target for the legislature’s chopping block.
What does this mean to you? Well, it means you are not going to trial anytime soon. Those eager to get their “day in Court” (either to protest injustice, or put their foot down to a perceived shakedown) will simply have to wait longer and longer, and people need to be upfront about it.
What do you do about it? Lawyers, talk honestly with your clients. Clients, seek upfront answers as to a timeline of events prior to embarking on a civil litigation matter, including costs estimates. As tempers flare and disputes arise, it’s easy to make a snap judgement to file a suit (for a Plaintiff) or reject a reasonable settlement demand (for a Defendant). Careful consideration is needed before you take any action.
Early resolution efforts are a must for every case. There is always an avenue for resolution. Fewer than one percent of all cases filed end up before a jury anyway. Defendants – don’t wait until you’ve emptied the children’s college funds paying for legal fees to make a serious assessment of your case; Plaintiffs – don’t wait until your children are off to college before obtaining some recovery and putting the matter and associated stress behind you. Reasonable early resolution of a claim benefits all parties. Plaintiffs may certainly believe their case is worth a high value, and Defendants often perceive overreaching within every settlement demand, but there is almost always an avenue for resolution, especially if the parties (and their lawyers) can attempt to objectively assess the case and set aside the emotional back story. Far too often egos drive cases well beyond any point of reason.
Those without means need to take advantage of free resolution programs; those with means need to attend private mediation. When that fails, think about arbitration or other options. You’re not getting to a jury anytime soon, so determine what your case is really worth now, and reasonably attempt resolution.
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