By Ronda Fears
Journal Record Staff Reporter
Because lawsuits are getting more complicated and amounts of
money involved are rising, the American Arbitration Association
has designed a new program to help resolve such disputes without
going to court.
The "Large, Complex Case Program" was unveiled three weeks ago
in New York, where the not-for-profit organization is based.
"What they have found is that the cases are getting larger,
the cases and the amount of money," said Oklahoma City attorney
Leslie L. Conner Jr., who is among five attorneys in the state on
the Oklahoma regional panel of arbitrators.
A special panel of arbitrators was selected among the
association's best in each region for the new program in order to
demonstrate its potential to the business community, Conner said.
Oklahoma is within the organization's Dallas office.
"Alternative dispute resolution (which includes arbitration)
came about because of business," Conner said. "It's quicker and
much less expensive than the courts.
"But businessmen want the terms of resolving their disputes to
be determined by experts in the area of business, people with
subject matter knowledge."
That is because, unlike mediation, arbitration involves
submitting a dispute to a third party for a decision. It can be
binding or non-binding for the parties. In contrast, mediation
only involves intervention by a neutral third party to facilitate
settlement of the dispute between the parties.
For American Arbitration Association's new program, each
panelist is required to have at least 15 years of experience in
arbitration, said Conner, who began training for arbitration work
in the 1970s. Other Oklahoma panelists are Oklahoma City
attorneys Peter B. Bradford and Jerry Tubb, Tulsa attorney L.K.
Smith and retired District Judge Joseph W. Morris of Tulsa.
Although arbitration is not a new phenomenon in private
disputes _ the association was founded 67 years ago _ it and
other alternative dispute resolution methods are relatively new
in the court system.
For several years a party to a lawsuit has been able to
request the court to compel an adversary to arbitration under the
Uniform Arbitration Act. But judges, or the court, did not order
parties to submit to some sort of alternative dispute resolution
method until about seven years ago.
That has only occurred locally on the federal level and in
Oklahoma and Canadian counties thus far, but a statewide rule to
that effect is under formulation.
An arbitration rule was adopted in the federal court system in
late 1985. …