Controlling the Bottom Line on Your Case

By: Hon. Ralph Costello
New York Supreme Court Justice, Tenth Judicial District – retired

The employment reports in the first week of October, 2011, that there were increases in employment were foreshadowed by reports that 34,000 jobs were lost in government.

Anyone who works in our courts knows that familiar faces are gone.  New York, like many states across the country, has worked hard to reduce staff and pare the cost of doing the peoples’ business, in our court system. This means buyouts for the highest paid, most experienced people and involuntary separation for others.

While the bottom line improves, the people who use the court system understand the side effects of such an economy.  With all due respect to the workers still on the job in the back office, they are stepping up to the plate with fewer teammates, less experience and less of a reserve of on-the-job knowledge.  Couple this with a rising case load in the court room, and you have a recipe for delay.  The delay of help for you and your client to dispose of the ready case.

The courts are restrained by slow moving cases trapped in back office jams, increased foreclosure caseloads that are time consuming, taking valuable time, for low rates of return.  The result is delay in the disposition of your client’s case.

More evidence of this are the new ads for groups willing to buy your clients interest in their personal injury case.  We’ve all seen the pitch from companies ready to buy your structured settlement, for pennies on the dollar.  Large future payments are sold for fractions of their value by desperate people.  In this atmosphere, every attorney has to question their obligation to protect the value of a client’s case.  Pressure clients feel as a result of delays makes necessary the consideration of alternative solutions.

Arbitration and mediation is that alternative.  By using alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as arbitration or mediation, you can expedite the legal process on behalf of your client and achieve a fair settlement within weeks, even days.

In a non binding mediation, parties meet with a neutral mediator who works to facilitate a settlement. On average, 78% of all cases that are mediated, settle at the mediation table, resulting in an average savings of $10,700  in litigation  costs, 89 staff hours, and 6 months in litigation time per case.*

Parties can also elect to have their case resolved via a binding arbitration. In this instance, you and your adversary agree to allow a neutral, third party arbitrator of your choosing, hear and render a decision in the case.

Both forums provide a speedy, inexpensive, low risk alternative to the litigation process. In fact, many cases can be resolved via ADR even before suit is filed.

You do not lose control of your case when you use an alternative disposition system.  Witnesses are allowed to testify, if you wish and the same type of evidence can be presented. However, money can be saved by not having to present live expert testimony.  You, as the attorney, are in control of the time you feel you need to present evidence and argument.  Control of the cost of doing business is in your hands, not in the hands of remote court administrators. As well meaning and concerned as they are, court administrators have to answer to the state Legislature and the governor’s office, who answer to the public and the press.  The private attorney has to answer to a client, who expects, and pays for, the best effort and judgment of the attorney they choose. In today’s atmosphere, attorneys have to consider the alternatives and make a choice.

There is a great financial advantage to a “disposition by appointment “rather than waiting for help from a court system short changed by funding cuts, restraints on overtime and loss of experienced people.  A timely disposition can be had with arbitration and mediation.  There are people ready, willing and able to help who are waiting for your call.

Hon. Ralph Costello is a retired New York State Supreme Court, Justice (Tenth Judicial District)

During his time in the courts, he managed a revolving inventory of over one thousand civil cases, involving wrongful death, medical and legal malpractice, breach of contract, insurance coverage, zoning and ordinance violations, labor law violations, Article 78 and Article 75 proceedings, foreclosures, forfeitures, seizures and various types of personal injury actions.

Judge Costello is currently acting as a mediator and arbitrator, handling cases for parties in the New York, metro area. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Judge Costello, please contact Amicus Mediation & Arbitration Group at 888-7-AMICUS.

*(United States Attorney’s Bulletin, Nov. 2000 “Evaluation of ADR in United States Attorney Cases” Jeffrey M. Senger, Deputy Senior Counsel for Dispute Resolution)

-We are saddened by the recent loss of our friend and colleague, Judge Ralph Costello. He was an accomplished mediator and extraordinary person. He will be missed greatly.

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