This exquisite service may prove to be quite valuable, and the roles of a Private Judge (PJ) are not as obvious as you might think at first blush. Although PJ services can be tailored to meet the requirements of the parties, you should be aware of important differences between a traditional trier of fact and a PJ.
First, even though the Rules of Evidence are used, they are relaxed. The goal of the PJ is to discover the correct material facts and then make conclusions of law based upon those accurate findings. Accordingly, the PJ may ask for certain supplemental documents and will probably have additional questions for the witnesses and the parties.
Second, the PJ will be flexible with scheduling to better accommodate everyone and enhance efficiency. Matters can be decided, and an astute Opinion issued, in a matter of days instead of weeks or months. Relatedly, in many cases the PJ may be able to take a shortcut and render an efficient decision before all of the scheduled evidence and arguments are presented. This avoids unnecessary burden, inconvenience and expense.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the PJ can provide immediate feedback during all aspects of the proceeding. This enables the parties to adjust their strategy or tactics, or to attempt to “correct” the judge, if an important item is being improvidently determined.
Fourth, there is an automatic right to appeal before a final (and perhaps binding) decision is rendered. In other words, a party is able to present additional facts and/or additional case authority to attempt to sway the PJ. Moreover, a party can request that another PJ (associated with Woosley Naragon) issue a “second opinion.” The overall goal is to craft a just and reasonable decision.
Other uses for a Private Judge:
A Private Judge may also be used in other roles. A company or a party may wish to conduct a mock trial in preparation for an impending traditional trial. This will highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Here, the PJ will strictly follow the applicable Rules of Evidence and will attempt to emulate, as much as practicable, the judge actually assigned to the case.
In some instances, a PJ can be used to generate an alternate opinion after a matter has already been tried or decided. This may be useful if a party is weighing various factors to tease out the merits of whether or not to appeal.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you decide if the savvy services of a Private Judge are in your future.