Nuts and Bolts of Videoconference Dispute Resolution in the Time of COVID-19
By Marc Alexander
Marc Alexander is a mediator and litigator at AlvaradoSmith APC. He authors the blog California Mediation and Arbitration (www.calmediation.org) and co-contributes to the blog California Attorneys Fees (www.calattorneysfees.com). His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
By necessity, I have started to conduct mediations via videoconference. This was an unanticipated development in my practice. Our local rules in California’s Central District only contemplated that, at the discretion of the mediator, parties residing outside the Central District could have a representative with final settlement authority available by phone during the entire proceeding in lieu of a personal appearance. Evidently, the local rules did not contemplate a pandemic. All of that changed with COVID-19 amid valid concerns about public health and safety.
Also, in the Central District, the largest group of cases that must be mediated are Americans with Disabilities Act cases. The ADA plaintiffs have disabilities affecting access, and a significant number are immunocompromised. Under current conditions, the alternatives are to cancel mediations, continue mediations, conduct mediations by phone, chat, or email, or conduct mediations by videoconference. In many of the ADA cases that must be mediated, a videoconference could be the best alternative in the absence of personal appearances.