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Things Fall Apart

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William Butler Yeats wrote “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” in a poem titled The Second Coming.  It was a prescient statement considering the times in which we are now living.

I was reminded of this line as I sat at my computer today listening and watching an excellent webinar about the impact of COVID-19 on the recording and indexing of real estate related documents and other written instruments.

In very simple terms, COVID-19 has caused the Los Angels County Recorder, and others, to shut its/their doors to the public. Recording of deeds, deeds of trust, and other written instruments affecting real estate consequently must be submitted by mail, or in a physical drop-box if available, unless submitted via title companies. This may cause unforeseen delay and likely legal problems downstream including, but not limited to, establishing priority among recordings, constructive notice issues, and Bona Fide Purchaser/Encumbrancer status. All of these were emphasized in today’s outstanding webinar thanks to the speakers, Los Angeles attorneys Ryan Squire, William Larr and Anya Stanley.

That is not the only havoc in real estate practice being created by the pandemic. Purchase and sales transactions are probably stalled, perhaps giving rise to disputes over earnest money deposits in escrow, funding, timing of close of escrow, possession, and so much more. Landlord-tenant issues are arising now in both the commercial and residential real estate contexts, with people unable to pay rents or mortgages, and owners unable to pay their lenders. The list goes on.

Among other things, lawyers are now even examining real estate contracts to see if they contain “force majeure” clauses and if and how, in light of COVID-19, they may affect the rights and obligations of the parties to the contract. (“Force Majeure [relates to a] provision commonly found in contracts that frees both parties from obligation if an extraordinary event prevents one or both parties from performing. These events must be unforeseeable and unavoidable, and not the result of the defendant’s actions, hence they are considered ‘an act of god.’” https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/force_majeure . )

As things fall apart, the circumstances are not good for people encountering real estate related disputes.

Worse, the courts have been, and continue to be, shuttered (except for certain time-sensitive or emergency matters), with resulting delays that no one could have anticipated and perhaps cannot be tolerated.

Thankfully there are mediators and mediation service providers that offer an alternative method of dispute resolution that may be more expedient and inexpensive when compared to the cost and time lag of judicial resolution now imposed by the circumstances. Many mediators, like yours truly, have come up to speed with mediation by video conference, allowing for safer-at-home distancing and, at least to some extent, mirroring the in-person experience in mediation. (Personally, I am aware that at least two mediator panels (there are probably others) identify on their websites those mediators who will mediate online. See, https://www.car.org/mediation/consumers/socalmediators ; see also, https://www.mediationla.org/mediators/ .) These Zoom mediations are an additional tool in the tool box of experienced mediators.

The fallout in real estate practice from COVID-19 will be felt for a long time. To the extent that lawyers, their clients, and dispute resolution professionals and others, can work together to help resolve the consequential disputes without unreasonable delay, perhaps the impact of the pandemic will be lessened.

At least, that is this writer’s hope.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

Managing the Conversation, Overseeing the Negotiation

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I had one of those typical telephone calls yesterday from an unrepresented person, not an attorney, dealing with a real estate dispute.

After the beginning pleasantries, the conversation went like this, more or less:

Are you a lawyer or a mediator?

Actually I am both. But I do not practice law; I conduct mediations as a full time profession.

I need some legal advice from you.

As a mediator, I can’t give you legal advice.

So what do you do?

When two or more parties are in a dispute, I convene and conduct a mediation. It’s a meeting in which I manage the conversation between the disputants (and their counsel if present) and I oversee the negotiation. I am not anyone’s attorney or advocate. I don’t judge right or wrong. I am a facilitator between the two sides to help both sides understand one another and to obtain enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not to resolve the dispute and if so when and on what terms.

You don’t decide the outcome?

No, actually people decide for themselves. I have no power to decide. On the other hand, I might use my knowledge and experience to help illuminate the problems, the practical realities, and sometimes some possible solutions. I help people understand the respective needs, interests and priorities, on both sides. I also point out the benefits of settlement: less risk and expense than litigating; certainty of outcome; reduction of stress, worry and so forth, sometimes protection of one’s health or reputation; all while keeping things private and confidential.

Why don’t you decide the outcome?

I’m not a judge or an arbitrator. I believe in people making their own informed decisions about what to do or not to do, but I help them along. Also, mediator ethics insist that I must be impartial, not take sides, and remain as neutral as possible.  So I don’t judge.

I still need legal advice.

My suggestion is to consult a practicing attorney. Then he or she can guide you on what to do, and maybe you and your attorney will thereafter participate in mediation.

Thank you.  Bye.

Bye.

***
David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

Appreciating Unscheduled Time, Managing Stress, And Feeling Better

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Mayor Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” guidelines began on March 19, 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I write this on April 19 knowing that the guidelines have been extended to May 15, 2020.

Lots of unscheduled time has passed and more is on the way. A friend asked me this morning via Facebook if I have big plans for the day. My answer to him: reading, writing, taking a solitary walk, maybe a nap in the afternoon.

This piece fills the writing part of the day.

Life has slowed, as I’ve written previously. See, https://karpmediation.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/some-good-resulting-from-staying-home/

And, I’ve taken to heart some advice I read from the CDC about managing stress in this stressful time:

1. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media;

2. Connect with others. Talk with friends and loved ones over the phone or via video chat about your concerns and how you are feeling;

3. Take care of yourself. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.

So, with my copious unscheduled time, I pay attention to the above, and to other personal interests as well, all of which I highly recommend.

For myself:

I work on my Masonic Lodge’s newsletter which I edit every month. I write for it too as well as for this blog.

I borrow e-books from the library and read science fiction or historical fiction.  I still enjoy reading and writing poetry from time to time.

I take frequent walks and pay much closer attention to my surroundings: the hummingbirds are out and fascinating to watch; many plants are in bloom; and so forth.

Yes, of course I still watch for business email and take phone calls during the weekdays to manage my mediation practice, but more pacifically because I know that the courts are closed and the pressure is off for litigants and attorneys, and business has slowed for all.  (So, I hope therefore that they, too, are beginning to appreciate unscheduled time.)

I do think that our outlooks will change as a result of the times and I hope that these times will help people to experience new feelings, as I have been feeling.  Like appreciation, creativity, compassion, relaxation, renewal, and a sense of personal completeness with less stress.

I am certain that, like me, others miss the social interaction of daily life, with family, friends and colleagues. So, as I do, I hope others will reach out via telephone or online to maintain and strengthen those relationships.

And I hope people will pay attention to their health; it’s a bad time to be among other people who just might be contagious.

So, let’s all take care of ourselves, enjoy life and our new-found unscheduled time.

Maybe as a society, we will feel better collectively.

I know I do.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who sometimes write about subjects other than mediation. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

Standing Still

The time is standing still for most of us.
Uncertain times have shut us in our place.
We try the social distancing and fuss
About our loneliness in our own space.

We look outside and see the passing day.
We fear and worry for our health and such.
Our solitude may keep the plague at bay.
But after while it gets to be too much.

Yet still we hope for better times ahead.
Perhaps our efforts yield improvements soon
To seize control and slow the sickness’ spread.
So once again our pastimes may resume.

Outside the Springtime offers life and hope
As we relearn, by standing still, to cope.

© David I. Karp, 2020. Written during the COVID-19 pandemic and Los Angeles’ “Safer at Home” restrictions.

MCLA Mediators Provide Online Mediation Sessions

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Please read the following press release , shared as a professional courtesy and at the request of the Mediation Center of Los Angeles (“MCLA”), a “Resource Vendor” of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Mediation Center of Los Angeles Now Provides Online “Vendor Resource List” Mediations for LA Superior Court

Los Angeles, CA – April 1, 2020 – The Mediation Center of Los Angeles (MCLA), one of three Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Mediation Resource List Vendors, provides high-quality, low-cost mediations to all civil litigants through its panel of independent qualified attorney-mediators, pursuant to specific rules and guidelines established by the Court and the MCLA.

MCLA is also the only mediation resource vendor authorized by the LA Superior Court to conduct online mediations. Although other mediation services and providers may offer online mediations, MCLA has trained and certified its panel members to properly conduct online mediations which requires new technical skills and training. Panel members who have passed the test and meet our highest qualification standards are designated on our website as an MCLA Certified Zoom Mediator.

Now that the civil courts have been required to substantially reduce services during the time of COVID-19, it is not advisable for anyone to conduct person to person mediations. Although some attorneys and parties unfamiliar with Zoom video conferencing may hesitate to use Zoom for their mediations, MCLA can assure you that the online experience is quite advanced and simulates an in office face to face experience.

Rather than having your cases hang in limbo for an unknown period, MCLA’s online service is now an excellent affordable opportunity for litigants and their counsel to resolve their cases with qualified mediators within a few weeks rather than waiting many months with uncertainty of resolution.

The mediators serving on the MCLA panel have agreed to offer “Court Resource List” mediations at reduced rates for the public good and to serve the needs of the Court litigants.

All MCLA independent mediators are lawyers with more than 10 years of good standing with the State Bar of California and have met MCLA’s rigorous eligibility requirements including extensive mediation training and significant mediation experience in differing substantive areas of law.

According to Myer Sankary, Esq., Program Director, the Mediation Center of Los Angeles was established in 2013, when the Court terminated its ADR program, as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable corporation to educate the public about the benefits of resolving disputes through mediation and to provide high quality, affordable mediation services to the public to reduce the burden on the Courts which has a backlog of civil cases.

“We have expanded our outreach for both in-person and online mediations for the benefit of the Court and its litigants through this ‘Resource List’ program,” said Sankary “and we receive no compensation from the Court, taxpayers or the mediators for administering this program.” Sankary explained, “therefore, we require a small per-party administrative fee to provide access to dispute resolution resources in selected civil cases.”

The Mediation Center of Los Angeles also welcomes donations in support of its mission to help disputants throughout Los Angeles County to minimize or reduce legal fees and Court costs with early resolution of cases and to help reduce Court congestion and the Courts’ own overhead expenses of litigation.

The San Fernando Valley Bar Association encouraged and supported the formation of MCLA as an Independent, non-profit organization to educate the public and provide affordable mediation services to all citizens of Los Angeles County. MCLA’s board members include experienced mediators and past presidents of the SFVBA.

The following is an evaluation by an experienced Plaintiff litigator who participated in a Zoom mediation online:

This method of conducting mediation online is highly flexible, simple, lacks all of the usual stressors accompanied by travel and time constraints, and was altogether a seamless, enjoyable experience (to the extent mediation is enjoyable ). This was a very cost-effective method of conducting mediation, it allowed everyone to feel comfortable in their own environments. [Emphasis in original]. 

I would love to see online mediation made a staple of the legal industry. The ease and privacy with which I could communicate with my client was in no way impaired by our being over two thousand miles apart. If we needed more time to discuss privately, it was easy enough to request time to do so, and the platform performed well with regard to audio and video, so there was no difficulty in communicating with anyone.

More information about the “Resource List” program is available on the Court’s website at http://www.lacourt.org/ADR.Res.List and on the Center’s website at http://www.mediationla.org/ .

Contact:

Myer Sankary, Esq. Program Director

Wendee Berman, Program Manager

info@MediationLA.org

(833) 476-9145, (818) 856-0232

http://www.mediationla.org/

###

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .  In addition to his private mediation practice, David I. Karp also serves on MCLA’s panel for occasional “low bono” mediations in partial fulfillment of his ethical responsibilities pursuant to Bus. & Prof. Code § 6073.

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

Some Good Resulting from Staying Home

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Mayor Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” emergency order was announced on March 19, 2019. It calls for residents of the City of Los Angeles to stay in their residences and limit outside activities except for essential tasks.  See, https://www.lamayor.org/sites/g/files/wph446/f/page/file/SAFER%20AT%20HOME%20ORDER%202020.03.19%20%28REV%202020.04.01%29.pdf .

I think that a lot of good has resulted, even if our activities have been curtailed.

Professionally, I have had to embrace the idea of mediation via video conference, and I am happy to say that I have just scheduled one such mediation in a litigated real estate dispute, with more to come, I anticipate.

Personally, there’s more:

First, my wife and I are not sick and we do feel safer at home. (We are also timid about going out, but that’s to be expected.)

Second, my daily routine has now changed significantly, and that’s really what I want to write about.

I looked today at the lyrics of Paul Simon’s “Feelin’ Groovy,” the first line of which tells us “Slow down, you move too fast.” See, https://www.paulsimon.com/song/59th-street-bridge-song-feelin-groovy/

Well, life IS suddenly slower, more relaxed, less pressured, and I think healthier and more enjoyable as a result.

I have more time to write, to think, to imagine, to take a short walk (keeping in mind social distancing), to sit outside in the back and listen to the birds, to read, to nap, ultimately to enjoy each moment. I try also to keep up with friends through social media and with family via phone and zoom.

It’s almost like being retired, I think, although I am not ready for retirement. (I still make myself available for mediation. See, https://karpmediation.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/announcement-re-online-mediation-due-to-covid-19-outbreak/ .)

I stay away from a lot of TV news now. It causes too much unnecessary anxiety. Instead, I read the newspaper online to learn what’s really important (and yes, I still roll my eyes at some of the mishegas in Washington, D.C.).

I am spending quality time with my wife of almost 39 years. And really, if nothing else that would be sufficient, dayenu.

With a slower pace now, I feel more ready and relaxed about my work life, family life, and life in general.

The last lines of The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) are: “Life, I love you / All is groovy.” See http://www.paulsimon.com , supra.

I think so, too, and remain optimistic about the future.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who sometimes write about subjects other than mediation. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

Announcement re Online Mediation due to COVID-19 Outbreak

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To all:

These days having passed with more and more bad news, shut downs, and dire predictions surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, I, like others, have begun trying to adjust to the new realities we face in both the short term and the longer term of law and mediation practice.

Consequently, I have spent many hours lately learning how to conduct an online mediation via Zoom. I am still new to the use of this platform, but it has become a possibility under the circumstances. Maybe a necessity.

If you would prefer to schedule a Zoom mediation, I am open to that. My Zoom mediations will start in April.

Or if you prefer, in-person mediations may be scheduled as well, but for later, maybe not until the beginning of May.

It’s a new world and we all need to adapt … and to do our best to continue to serve the community of litigants and disputants that rely on us.

Thanks.

David I. Karp

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who sometimes write about subjects other than mediation. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

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