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Judicial Arbitration Becoming a Standard in Some States

Tuesday, May, 3, 2011


The term "judicial arbitration" may sound odd, since arbitration itself is often used as an alternative to going to court.  A better term might be court-ordered arbitration, a procedure that is becoming a standard in certain jurisdictions, but only under limited circumstances.

 

Judicial Arbitration in California: A Case Study

 

The state of California provides an example of judicial arbitration in practice.  In the state courts of California, if a judge feels that the disputed amount is less than $50,000, he or she has the option of requiring that the parties undergo arbitration.  This option is entirely at the judge's discretion.

 

A second form of judicial arbitration can be exercised by the plaintiff in any case; if the plaintiff will agree to limit any award to the same maximum, $50,000, then he or she can choose arbitration instead of court.  There is no comparable right for the defendant to send the case to arbitration in California.

 

Once in arbitration, an arbitration attorney instead of a judge will hear the evidence and reach a decision, for example in the case of intellectual property arbitration.  In the case of judicial arbitration, any party unhappy with the outcome can demand a new trial, one that will take place before a judge or jury.

 

At this time, such judicial arbitration options exist only in state courts.  The federal court system lacks any similar provisions.