Please accept this as a response to your recent inquiry directed to my client Mr. John Q. Public. As I know you are a busy jurist, I have attached a copy of your letter to Mr. Public below this correspondence, for your reference and convenience.
You have inquired as to whether Mr. Public would be interested in arbitration of his dispute against Jane Doe, in your courtroom. I must say that Mr. Public found your inquiry, which was directed to his personal mailing address, a bit disconcerting, as all pleadings in the suit for which you have suggested arbitration were filed under my address. In my state, it would be highly unusual, not to mention arguably improper, for a judge of any court to contact a represented party directly, bypassing that party's counsel. I have heard that Californians are a casual breed, so I will overlook this slight.
Since you have asked about the nature of Mr. Public's dispute with Ms. Doe, I am authorized to state that the principal issue is liability for damage of personal property through depreciation. Ordinarily I would not have filed this action, as the damages amount to a relatively small sum, but as Mr. Public is related to my employee I have done so as a courtesy. It would be improper for me to say more, as Ms. Doe has not yet been served with process and so I am unable to provide her counsel with a copy of this message. I would not wish it said that I had prejudiced Ms. Doe's right to a fair hearing before an unbiased arbitrator through improper ex parte contact.
That said, there are a few questions which must be answered before Mr. Public is able to consider your kind offer of arbitration. You indicate that before your retirement you were a distinguished judge of the New York Family Court. Do you feel that you have sufficient grounding in the law of negligence to render an informed decision? If so, are you versed in the law as it applies in my state? I ask because North Carolina follows the common law of contributory negligence, rather than a comparative negligence system or any modified contributory negligence scheme. Many attorneys and judges from outside jurisdictions find this doctrine confusing. I of course assume that the ordinary principle of lex loci delicti commissi will apply in your courtroom. Am I correct in that assumption? Do you have online access to foreign case law databases, such as through Westlaw or Lexis?
Your offer states that Mr. Public will be provided with transportation to Hollywood, California. While I assume that this offer applies to me as well, will it apply to the witnesses we plan to call? If so, with what accomodations will they be provided? If not, will their travel expenses be awarded as costs?
I must also inquire as to your "guarantee" that any damages you may award to Mr. Public will be paid within thirty days. Within thirty days of what date? The date of decision? The date of airing? The date of syndication? And just how are you able to "guarantee" that my client's damages will be paid? I assure you that judgment collection can be a tricky business in this jurisdiction. Even if the defendant is insured (as we believe to be the case in this matter), insurers are liable to disclaim coverage for various reasons contractual and equitable. Have you reviewed the defendant's insurer's files sufficiently to determine that no reservations apply and that limits are adequate to meet this claim? How did you obtain a copy of her policy?
Finally, I note that you have guaranteed Mr. Public an "appearance fee" for his testimony. Although I am not your attorney, I must warn you that this seems highly improper to me. All of the canons and ethics rules of which I am aware bar payment of fees to witnesses for testimony unless said witnesses are qualified as experts or affiliated with a law enforcement agency and receiving ordinary salary. Mr. Public, though he seems to be an intelligent and educated man, is not an expert witness. Even if he was, tactically I would be most loath to offer my own client in such a capacity. Nonetheless, I suggest that you consult with your counsel to be assured that this is proper before extending such offers in the future.
I look forward to hearing your responses, and to discussing these matters with you further. Thank you.