There are many ways to resolve disputes. Using the judicial system, parties file an action in court and proceed down the legal maize with discovery and litigation. This is costly, time consuming and adversarial in nature.
Alternatively, the California Code of Civil procedure section 638 (l) allows for the appointment of a "general referee" who is retained essentially as a private judge upon the mutual agreement of the parties to serve in place of the Superior Court Judge. California law authorizes a general referee "To try any or all of the issues in an action or proceeding, whether of fact or law, and to report a statement of decision thereon." In our role as "judge" we hear testimony, receive evidence and ultimately issue a written decision on how the matter will be decided and the results apportioned among the parties. As general referee we enjoy the immunity of a judicial officer.
After the General Referee has heard all of the evidence and gathered all of the pertinent and relevant facts, he will issue a written decision within twenty days of the closing of testimony. This written decision has the same effect as a ruling by a Superior Court Judge or jury, and the parties will be bound by the decision as if the court had made the decision. The written decision becomes the ruling of the court, and the parties' only recourse against the decision is to file an appeal as if it were a court judgment.
We create a record of the proceedings by videotaping testimony and indexing documents and reports. When we complete our discovery, we close that phase of the process, after which, neither party may introduce any further evidence. We render a written decision, based on our findings which also becomes a part of the record.
The advantages are:
The parties will receive a speedy resolution to their dispute. The courts are backlogged with cases and due process is a slow and tedious process. Typically, the general reference will be less costly in that it will reduce attorney's fees and other litigation related costs associated with the preparation for trial and trial in the Superior Court of the State of California. The process of using a General Referee is in most instances a much less formal process than that implemented by the courts and the affords the parties more flexibility in preparing their case.
The disadvantages are:
The parties give up their right to a trial in the Superior Court. This means that the parties will not be having a trial and will not have the right to present their case to a judge or jury. The decision of the referee is final and binding on each party. The referee's is solely in charge of the case and Code of Civil Procedure is not available to the parties. How and what evidence is obtained and presented is left to the discretion of the referee.
We accept cases as general referee where the primary issues are economic. We are particularly effective where there are civil (non-criminal) accounting disputes, malfeasance issues, valuation issues, performance measurement, business buyouts, family and marriage dissolution disputes involving business interests, among others.