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Brooklyn Bar Association offers arbitrator training at CLE

April 25, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association offered arbitration training on Monday with (pictured from left) special referee Paul Nuccio, Hon. Ingrid Joseph, Jeffrey Miller and Amber Evans. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Bar Association offered small-claims arbitrator training during a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar in Brooklyn Heights on Monday during which lawyers were trained and certified to become pro bono arbitrators in the NYC Civil Court.

Special referee Paul V. Nuccio ran the CLE with the help of Jeffrey Miller, chair of the BBA’s Civil Court Committee. Hon. Ingrid Joseph, supervising judge of the Kings County Civil Court, where small claims arbitrations are held, was there to certify the attorneys afterward.

The CLE was one of the most popular during the year, with attorneys packing the Brooklyn Bar Association building, which was a welcome sight for Joseph, who said that her court could use all the help that it can get.

“There are so many cases so we need the help of the arbitrators,” said Joseph. “Each evening we get cases that are ready for trial and there is one judge available. The more arbitrators we have, the less time we have to spend at night and the less complaints I get.”

Part of the issue was that Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut the budget for Small Claims Courts in 2010, which meant that in Brooklyn it went from four days a week to just one. However, the recent budget has allowed the court to increase it to three nights a week, but the system doesn’t have enough arbitrators who work voluntarily.

Nuccio explained that this training session was a part of an effort to increase the number of arbitrators. He also said that there has been an effort to allow attorneys to fulfill their pro bono requirement as arbitrators. If or when that happens, Nuccio said that he expects more attorneys to volunteer.

Perhaps as a way to entice attorneys into volunteering, Joseph explained that volunteering as an arbitrator is a good resume builder for lawyers who are thinking about becoming judges.

“This gives you an opportunity to sit on a bench and listen to cases,” she said. “You’ll get the opportunity to hear the excuses that are given to us and you’ll have to decide for yourself if you believe those excuses.”

The CLE was broken up into two parts. During the first part, Nuccio explained the mechanics of an arbitration. He walked the attorneys through filling out the paperwork and explained how the process operates. During the second part, Nuccio explained the types of cases they should expect, anything civil trials under $5,000, which often includes automobile accidents, rent disputes, contract disputes, and how to handle common issues that will arise.

“It’s a simplified procedure. Even with an attorney there, you should try to keep it as simple as possible,” Nuccio said. “The claimant puts on their case, the defendant puts on their case. These people are here because they want their day in court and you have to give it to them. They want to be heard.”

Miller added his thoughts throughout the lecture and at one point explained that perhaps the most important thing that claimants and defendants need to understand is that they are giving up their right to a trial by entering into arbitration.

“Giving up the right to a trial is a choice,” Miller explained. “When you explain it to the litigants, they have the right to know that they’re making that choice. Arbitration may give them their disposition faster, they are giving up their right to an appeal, there is not going to be a record kept of the proceeding.”

The next BBA CLE will take place on May 1, at 6 p.m. and is titled “MayDay: Labor & Employment Law Under the Trump Administration.” It will be hosted by Justice Katherine Levine, with attorneys David E. Leach, Brigette Renaud and Antonia Kousoulas.


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