Wednesday, October 21, 2015

          Meet the Masters: CNDR Panel of Bay Area Experts

          Special masters help judges navigate the infinite moving parts of labyrinthine legal disputes. A few of them are coming to a classroom near you.

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          “Special masters handle complicated, multiparty, multistate cases where the basic causes of parties’ damages are identical but the damages themselves differ,” says Professor Sheila Purcell.

          Capitalizing on the increasing popularity of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution (CNDR), one of the top 10 dispute resolution programs in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, proposes a variety of events throughout the year to promote ADR as an alternative to traditional litigation.

          Do the lawsuits resulting from the 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric explosion in San Bruno, CA or the breast implant defect cases ring a bell? Cue the special masterss, who played an integral role in those cases and many other notable controversies. On October 28, the Honorable Steven Dylina, a judge in San Mateo County who oversaw the 100+ cases and settlements stemming from the San Bruno explosion, and three prominent Bay Area special masters, Cathy Yanni, Martin Quinn and William Nagle, will convene for “Meet the Masters,” a panel of Bay Area experts who will discuss special mastering, an area of ADR that remains relatively unfamiliar to the legal community at large. The event is free of charge and open to the public.

          “Special masters handle complicated, multiparty, multistate cases where the basic causes of parties’ damages are identical but the damages themselves differ,” explained Professor Sheila Purcell, director of the CNDR. Judges call on special masters to assist with complex, costly and unwieldy lawsuits, including certain class actions that would otherwise demand excessive judicial resources. Cases requiring extensive non-jury determinations of fact, discovery or class-action settlement administration often benefit from the oversight of a special master. “The reputation and integrity of the special master is critical to the success of such cases. There’s a lot of efficiency that can be achieved through special mastering,” said Purcell.

          Mediation is another thriving area of ADR. The “Meet the Masters” panel comes on the heels of the CNDR’s third annual “Mediation Around the World” event, which recently brought together mediators and lawyers from Mexico, China, Israel and Japan to discuss how mediation is used in their countries, particularly to improve access to justice.

          Nuria González Martín, a senior researcher at the Law Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico specializes in family mediation. She spoke about the use of mediation to resolve international child abduction cases. “In thinking about international family mediation, the panel helped me realize how important it is to consider cultural sensitivity training for mediators. In my field, respect for individuals of all cultures is crucial and mediators must be knowledgeable about other cultures to succeed.”

          UC Hastings LL.M. student Yael Shemmer discussed a long-lasting labor dispute with the Israeli teachers’ union that was eventually resolved through mediation. “I see great advantages in promoting certain U.S. mediation practices in Israel, my home country. I believe that when you have a well-organized system like in the U.S., mediation can help parties better control the outcomes of their disputes. Even if a mediation outcome isn’t positive, it assists the parties and the judge in reaching a faster and better verdict,” she remarked.

          Mark your 2016 calendars.

          The CNDR has also announced a full-day conference on January 22, 2016 devoted to the latest ADR developments in Asia, including in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea. The event is co-sponsored by the UC Hastings Far East Studies program and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, an international organization that provides training, education and certification in international ADR. For more information about this event, contact Professor Purcell at purcells@hastings.edu

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