The Benefits Of A Private Trial
When we think of alternate dispute resolution (ADR), we often think of mediation and arbitration. Each has positives and negatives, but there’s one kind of ADR that is often overlooked, even though it is specifically provided for in Florida law: the private trial.
What is a Private Trial?
It is a little misleading to call a private trial ADR, because a private trial is still a full blown trial, often in front of a legally binding judge. The difference is that the parties opt to pay a private judge to handle just their matter, whereas the parties wouldn’t pay for a serving judge. There are other important differences between private trials and normal, public trials.
Privacy and Payment
As the name suggests, private trials are private. That means that the information being used as evidence or being put into the record are not public information. The public or the media cannot walk in and observe your trial the way they can in the courthouse. This can be very helpful for more sensitive legal issues.
Private trials do require the up front payment to the judge for his or her services, a cost not associated with a “normal” public court.
However, the investment may be worth it because of the speed. If there is a dispute about evidence, the private judge is there to make a ruling—no more waiting weeks for a hearing date. Fast resolutions on discovery disputes or legal issues usually mean you will get to trial faster, and thus it will be cheaper.
Unlike arbitration, where the civil rules of procedure don’t always apply, in a private trial, the civil rules do apply. This still allows for full discovery, and the parties know that they are getting the protections that the civil rules provide.
Asking for, and Getting, a Private Trial
To get a private trial, parties can request from the sitting judge that a private judge be appointed. The sitting judge may be, but doesn’t have to actually be a retired or non-practicing judge; any member of the Florida bar with more than 5 years experience can legally serve as a private judge. This is different from arbitrators, who may legally be from any professional background.
Once a judgment is reached at trial, the parties petition the court to memorialize the findings in the form of an enforceable judgment. The court maintains the ability to enforce the private trial court’s findings through contempt, or other powers that the court would normally have in a standard publicly held trial.
If you disagree with the result, there is a limited ability to appeal, but you can’t appeal the private judge’s factual findings. While more limited than the ability to appeal from a full trial, there is a broader right to appeal than you would normally have following an arbitration.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help you make the right decisions in your business or commercial litigation lawsuit.