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Former California chief justice joins private mediation firm after criticizing industry


Before leaving her post as California’s top judicial official in January, former Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she had serious concerns about the rapid growth of the private judging industry.

Responding to The Times revelations that such contract judges had helped facilitate the misappropriation of client funds by fallen legal titan Tom Girardi, Cantil-Sakauye said in August that the largely unregulated industry , she was ready for further supervision.

In her last open forum with journalists in November, Cantil-Sakauye reiterated those concerns, saying that the rise of private mediation and arbitration, pushing litigation behind closed doors and off the public record, also threatened the evolution of California case law. .

But now, just months after retiring from the bank, Cantil-Sakauye is joining private industry, signing with ADR Services, which specializes in alternative dispute resolution in California. The company promotes a comprehensive list of prominent legal scholars and former judges available to hire for private mediation, arbitration, and consulting.

In an interview with The Times on Thursday, Cantil-Sakauye, a moderate who was considered a consensus-builder on the California Supreme Court, said she still has the same concerns about the industry, but also sees value in giving clients resolutions. fast in certain cases. cases.

She said that people might “see that as inconsistent or hypocritical,” but she doesn’t see it that way.

He has never been entirely opposed to mediation.

Cantil-Sakauye noted that to help eliminate a massive backlog of criminal and civil cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic during his time as Chief Justice, he created a program to provide free civil mediation services to litigants using funds state agencies, and another to retrain retirees to monitor those cases and move them through the system faster.

She also remains in favor of increased oversight and, as a mediator, will continue to advocate for industry oversight, she said, just as she advocated oversight of lawyers as a lawyer and of judges as a judge.

“It is always the risk of a lack of supervision that creates the dangers,” he said. “There is so much going on in mediation with lawyers that there should be a review framework.”

Cantil-Sakauye said state legislators and California State Bar officials need to start formalizing oversight of private judges and the attorneys who work with them, and she hopes they’ll “invite her to sit at that table” when start doing it.

Cantil-Sakauye said she is also concerned that the proliferation of private mediation and arbitration would diminish the ability of California law to evolve as it should through robust litigation in state courts. But, he said, “that train has left the station.”

“It’s not just in California, it’s everywhere,” he said.

Cantil-Sakauye said she won’t be leaving her other new job as president and CEO of the California Public Policy Institute, which she took over in January upon leaving office.

Instead, starting next month, he plans to work part-time with ADR on a case-by-case basis, he said. She plans to work as a mediator, consultant and in moot court, but she won’t be handling arbitration cases, which she said would be too time consuming.

She said ADR had courted her for months and she “agreed to be flexible” about how many hours she would spend on cases. She said she decided to do so after speaking with her former colleague on the court, retired judge Ming W. Chin, who also works for ADR.

Cantil-Sakauye said there were financial considerations involved in the decision, of course, but they weren’t her main motivation.

“The biggest motivator for me is staying connected to the law,” she said. “I’d still like to talk to the lawyers about the cases and (ask), ‘What’s your strategy?’ and ‘How do you think you’re going to win?’”

She can see why they would want to talk to her, too, she said.

“Amongst a lot of other advice on a major case,” he said, “I probably wouldn’t mind hearing the opinions of a chief justice.”

Times reporter Harriet Ryan contributed to this article.

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