Private Judges

Any issues that remain unresolved after the Mediation or Mandatory Settlement Conference must be decided by the court at the time of the trial. At the trial, both sides are allowed to present any relevant evidence they have concerning the issues that are still being contested.

For example, if the value of the family home is disputed, a real estate appraiser can give his expert opinion of the fair market value of the property. Also, the parties themselves can testify as to the issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support and division of community property.

The court system is becoming more congested every year. In some courts there are so many cases that trials have to be "bifurcated." This means that the trial is conducted in segments which can be separated by periods of thirty to sixty days. Where this is done, long trials can take many months to complete.

As the courts have become more congested, attorneys have been looking to alternatives to having trials in court. One of these alternatives is the use of a private judge. Companies, such as the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service, have hired retired judges who hear cases just as they would in a courthouse. By using a private judge a trial can take place as scheduled, without the delays that are common in court.

One factor to consider, however, is the cost. Private judge services usually charge between $250 and $350 per hour for the judge's time. This means that a one day trial can cost more than $2,000, in addition to the attorneys fees. On the other hand, if the case is heard in the courthouse, the parties can spend many hundreds of dollars just to have their attorneys wait for the case to be called.

We encourage our clients to consider retaining the services of a private judge. It is our experience that the additional cost of private judging is outweighed by the speed in which the case can be completed.