The Judicial Arbiter Group is able to provide an added dimension to the mediation of civil litigation through the presence of an experienced judge arbiter. The benefits to the traditional settlement and negotiation process include independent analysis of evidence & legal arguments, promotion of the proper settlement environment, improvement of communications, timelines, and identification of key case elements. The settlement conference, as conducted by JAG, is an informal assessment and negotiation session typically conducted in three parts. First, all parties and counsel will meet together and review the settlement process and procedural status in the litigation. Next, the process will usually involve separating the parties and reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the respective sides of the dispute, where the settlement arbiter draws on his or her experience to provide an objective analysis of the value of the case and the merits of the legal arguments. The arbiter will then negotiate among the parties until a satisfactory settlement is reached or it becomes apparent that negotiations must be concluded at a later date. The final step involves bringing the settlement conference to a close and the drafting of a Settlement Memorandum outlining the agreed upon terms of the settlement.
The Judicial Arbiter Group conducts binding arbitration hearings pursuant to the contractual agreement of the parties to appropriate statutory provisions in the jurisdiction in which the dispute has arisen. Generally, JAG arbiters conduct arbitration hearings guided by the familiar Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence, but can customize a format with agreement of the parties. If contractually obligated, and the parties choose, they may also utilize AAA rules. Arbitration hearings can be conducted in several ways depending upon the desires of the parties and the particular nuances of the instant case. These methods include the traditional trial to the court utilizing a single arbiter, the arbitration panel in which the hearing is conducted before a panel of fact finders, (usually three arbiters) and use of a summary or mock jury trial in a binding format in which the parties have entered into a Contract to Arbitrate that provides for the enforceability of the jury decision. The JAG arbiter staff is also available to serve on panels composed of attorneys and industry or trade professionals to provide the legal and judicial background necessary to the resolution of complex commercial or personal injury disputes. As a general rule, JAG arbiters will only serve as the third, neutral arbiter on three-person panels and will refuse appointment by only one of the parties involved in the case.
Neutral Case Evaluation
Arbiter staff at JAG is available for consultation with individual counsel regarding case evaluation, including strengths and weaknesses, and trial strategy. Additionally, a number of JAG arbiters are former appellate judges and available to participate on a review panel for cases currently on appeal. Appellate counsel may find presenting issues, theories, and showcasing presentation methods in appeal preparation to a group of former appellate jurists advantageous.
Summary Jury Trials
Summary jury trials closely approximate a traditional trial by jury. Counsel present evidence in the familiar format, but in a proceeding monitored and directed by a JAG arbiter. While evidence and witnesses may be presented in both an oral and written format and summarized for brevity, jury members receive information just as in a public court trial. Both trial presentation of counsel and jury deliberation can be videotaped for later review and study. JAG has the capacity to digitally record three juries deliberating simultaneously, and upon conclusion of the trial, counsel can view these deliberations to experience more fully the dynamics of jury deliberations. While the use of these techniques commonly involves only one party to specific litigation, in a summary jury proceeding opposing counsel participate in the program and can agree that any verdict produced is binding.
Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes §13-3-111 and C.R.C.P. Rule 122, JAG arbiters who are former Colorado judges are eligible for appointment as trial judges as a court of record. Trials conducted under this provision can be court trials or jury trials. By selecting a JAG judge under this statutory provision, counsel can legally "forum shop," be assured of a firm trial date, and still preserve all appellate rights. Compensation is at the usual rate charged by the arbiter selected.
Arbiter staff is available for court appointment as Special Master under the appropriate statutory provision to assist court and counsel in the resolution of cases requiring ultimate court review and final approval. These appointments are especially appropriate in such cases as environmental litigation and complex commercial disputes, where appointment of a discovery master will assist the court in final resolution, and cases where the length of time required for settlement discussions or trial make it difficult to manage due to the press of other court business.
Discovery and case preparation often require extensive attorney effort and periodic judicial review. The discovery process probably constitutes the most time-consuming, costly aspect of litigation. The Judicial Arbiter Group can assist counsel in this process, either by being appointed as a Special Master by the Court currently having jurisdiction in the pending litigation or by agreement of the parties under an Agreement to Arbitrate which covers all discovery matters or selected issues. JAG is able to assist counsel in managing discovery efforts in several ways including: day to day supervision of discovery, prompt hearings on motions to compel or sanction, and development of a Discovery Master Plan.
The arbiter and administrative staff of JAG are able to assist counsel by its availability for court appointment as receiver in litigation involving ongoing enterprises. With experience, training and expertise in accounting, management, marketing and law, Judicial Arbiter Group staff is able to assist counsel in navigating the pitfalls of state court receiverships as well as bankruptcy issues. The added dimension of receivership supervision by former trial and appellate judges provides court and counsel additional comfort in these delicate situations.
Jury Focus Groups
The use of focus groups in testing consensus opinion, while not unusual in other disciplines such as marketing research, is relatively new to litigation. With the focus group approach, counsel, an arbiter, or a neutral third party present various aspects of specific litigation in a controlled environment. Evidentiary issues and facts are presented to members of the focus group either in writing or orally, often by “layering” the issues and facts to determine particularly sensitive or strong issues and positions. After each cumulative piece of information is provided to members of the focus group counsel can examine their responses. Use of the focus group methodology can eliminate or greatly reduce the impact of attorney personalities in trial presentation and allow sample jurors to study and respond to particular facts and issues.
Mock Jury Trials
The Judicial Arbiter Group is equipped to assist counsel in trial preparation, strategic planning and settlement valuation through the use of mock jury trials. With a readily available list of qualified jurors from various jurisdictions, JAG is able to provide counsel with a diversified, representative jury panel to develop trial strategies or value litigation. Representative jury panels coupled with experienced arbiter insight make the use of such innovative trial planning another effective tool for counsel to employ. JAG's courtroom is equipped with the most advanced presentation and recording tools, including ELMO, Skype, a 120" projection screen, and two 55" LCD monitors. This equipment permits counsel to give effective, technological-based presentations, record witness testimony for future review, and observe and record real time jury deliberations.