Florida Law Permits Parties to Select Private Lawyer to Serve as Judge in State Court Lawsuits

Florida Statutes contains a little-known law called "Voluntary Trial Resolution" that permits parties to retain a private lawyer to serve as the Trial Resolution Judge in a Florida dispute.  "Voluntary Trial Resolution" ("VTR") is different from binding arbitration. A case submitted to VTR is subject to the Florida rules of civil procedure and evidence and concludes in either a bench or jury trial.  The parties also retain all available appeal remedies that exist in a typical lawsuit.

Pursuant to Section 44.104, Florida Statutes, a private lawyer (who must be a member of The Florida Bar in good standing for more than 5 years) acts as the Trial Resolution Judge by agreement of the parties.  Once the parties reach this agreement, the Trial Resolution Judge presides over the case and trial itself in the same manner as if a circuit court judge or county court judge were presiding over the case.  By law, the Trial Resolution Judge is permitted full access to all state courthouse resources, including courtrooms and a jury venire, if demanded.  

Parties in Florida disputes should consider the advantages of stipulating to VTR.  Some of those advantages include the ability to choose who will decide the dispute, adherence to the rules of procedure and evidence, increased and more timely access to the decision-maker, and a date certain for trial.  Parties may agree to have a matter heard by a Trial Resolution Judge before or after a lawsuit is filed.  One example of an Administrative Order (entered in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit for Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida) concerning VTR is available for review here

Joel Ewusiak is willing to serve as a Trial Resolution Judge in Florida disputes.  For more information concerning the VTR process, please contact Joel at 727.286.3559 or joel@ewusiaklaw.com. Note that VTR is not available for "any dispute involving child custody, visitation, or child support, or ... any dispute which involves the rights of a third party not a party to ... voluntary trial resolution when the third party would be an indispensable party if the dispute were resolved in court or when the third party notifies ... the trial resolution judge that the third party would be a proper party if the dispute were resolved in court, that the third party intends to intervene in the action in court, and that the third party does not agree to proceed under ...VTR."