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Seeking Alternatives to Defunct ADR Department

Los Angeles Superior Court will eliminate its Alternative Dispute Resolution Department – the largest such government program nationally – and it will hit the San Fernando Valley hard. For more than 20 years, the department has helped litigants save time and money by negotiating out-of-court settlements, but government budget cuts proved its demise. The shutdown will begin with the closure of the ADR office at the Michael D. Antonovich Courthouse in Lancaster sometime in April. Then in May the ADR will close in Chatsworth, Glendale and Van Nuys. The closures will include programs handling both civil litigation and family law. David Gurnick, president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association and an attorney at Lewitt Hackman in Encino, said the immediate impact of the closures will be to move cases into the regular court system, causing delays and overscheduling. However, that condition will be temporary as attorneys steer their clients to services including American Arbitration Association Inc. of New York, JAMS Inc. of Irvine, Judicate West of Santa Ana and other private dispute resolution organizations. “For the short term it will be disruptive, but it has the potential to be positive,” Gurnick said. “As more private organizations start doing this, it will provide more choice for parties to lawsuits.” Gurnick said that in addition to established organizations, lawyers will start working as private judges for arbitration as part of their practice. Under California law, parties to a lawsuit can mutually select a lawyer to be their superior court judge for a specific case. Gurnick believes the use of this procedure will increase. The bar association also is setting up a program that will cater to the pro bono and modest means segments of the market. Gurnick said this was the niche the Superior Court ADR Department has filled until now. Firm Splits Stone, Rosenblatt & Cha effectively ceased operations on Dec. 31 but its partners have been anything but quiet. The partners have split to form two new firms. Greg Stone and John Cha are founding partners of Stone Cha & Dean LLP at the same address in Woodland Hills where their former business was located. Stone said the firm will continue to handle business litigation, insurance defense and intellectual property matters. Long-time clients include Albertson’s Inc., Total Woman Gym and Spa, Cemex S.A. and Kroger Co. “We’re going in different directions, but we are not making any major changes and we are going to continue to grow,” Stone said. Meanwhile, Ira Rosenblatt has created R2 Law Group LLP in Woodland Hills with two other partners from the former firm. R2 will specialize in business transactions and strategic consulting with a special emphasis on working with boards at small and mid-sized companies. “I think of myself as a board builder,” Rosenblatt said. “Typically, I will work hand in glove with boards or company founders to help them decide where they are going in the future strategically.” Judges’ Night San Fernando Valley Bar Association honored Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Thornton House as its Judge of the Year at its annual Judges’ Night on March 7. Also, Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Judge Jerold Cohn took home the Stanley Mosk Legacy of Justice Award. House serves as supervising judge for the court’s district that includes Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale. She led the passage of expedited jury trials legislation in 2010 and supervised the statewide conversion of judicial forms in small claims cases into plain language format. Cohn was appointed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in 1986. The program, held at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills on March 7, also included the presentation of a check for $100,000 by the SFVBA’s Attorney Referral Service to the Valley Community Legal Foundation to fund charitable programs, grants and scholarships. Broker-Lawyer David Fisher has joined the firm Gray Duffy LLP in Encino as a partner.  Fisher, who previously had a solo practice, specializes in real estate law and holds a license as a real estate broker. For 25 years he has represented lenders, developers and investors in various types of transactions including commercial and residential leases, financing deals, sales, loan restructurings, development contracts and litigation. “David’s diverse expertise makes him well-equipped to handle a variety of matters,” said Gary Gray, managing partner at Gray Duffy, in a statement. “His attention to detail and commitment to personally guiding every case from inception to resolution will be a valuable asset to the firm.” Fisher also practices administrative law before the Department of Real Estate, Employment Development Department and the Department of Corporations. He represents escrow companies, real estate brokerage firms and contractors in compliance and disciplinary issues. Locally, he represents tenants in land use issues such as conditional use permits, zoning variances and police hearings. Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or jrussell@sfvbj.com.

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.
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