At the Private Trials of America, we are dedicated to answering any questions you may have about our approach to the legal process.
Q: How is this binding on the parties? What is required for them to consent and what if they decide halfway through they no longer agree?
A: The parties submit an Agreed Motion to get an Agreed Order pursuant to 12 O.S. Section 611, et seq. The statutes provide that these orders are binding and that the parties cannot back out. We will provide all of the forms and take care of everything for you. Let us know if we can help you and your clients.
Q: Why should I use PTOA?
A: Times are changing. The is not currently a cure or vaccine for the Coronavirus. Clients are concerned about safety and privacy. Courthouses are dealing with back logs of cases with criminal “in custody” cases taking a priority over family law cases. It is unknown if another virus surge will hit leading to additional Courthouse closings and further case delays.
Clients still want and need relief. They want their cases to move forward. The Oklahoma Statutes provide for cases to be assigned to Private Referees to resolve cases. PTOA combines these procedures along with the latest technology to deliver prompt, fair and safe resolution to cases.
Lawyers need to practice law. We will take care of the technology for you and your clients. Tell us what you want, and we will make it happen.
Q: What is a private trial, and how does it work?
A: The standard process of using the District Courts to resolve a case generally takes 12 months at a minimum. Due the pandemic of COVID 19, this time period will be extended even longer. The proceedings are open to the public and held in Courthouses. The parties often feel the process takes too long, exposes their private details to the public and can be dangerous due to Coronavirus related Health concerns.
The Oklahoma Statutes provide the procedure for “any issue of fact or law” to be sent to a Referee. See 12 O.S. § 611 et seq. The process is fairly simple. At any point during a proceeding from when the Petition is filed through the completion of Pretrial, the parties enter into an Agreed Order (see Sample Order) referring the case to the Referee. PTOA calls this person a Judge Pro Tem. A list of available Judges Pro Tem is available here.
Once the District Judge signs off on the Order and it is filed, the case goes to the Judge Pro Tem. The parties can now determine the Scheduling Order for the case subject to the Judge Pro Tem’s approval. Neither party can back out once the Order has been entered with the District Court.
All pleadings are still filed with the District Court as before, but all proceedings are held before the Judge Pro Tem. These proceedings are not open to the public. Per statute, the Judge Pro Tem must issue her decision with findings of fact and conclusions of law for each issue. This final Order is then filed with the District Court and is treated as if the District Judge had issued the Order. They parties may then initial the appeals process as set forth in the statutes.
Q: What are next steps and how do I begin the process?
A: In order to initiate the Private Trial process the parties must first agree to go this route. Counsel for the parties shall then contact PTOA to reach out to the agreed upon Judge Pro Tem and provide the Motion and Order for the Private Trial. Counsel will then be scheduled for a conference with the Judge Pro Tem to determine timing and next steps in the case.
Q: What are the advantages to a Private Trial as compared to a Public Trial?
A: The conventional District Court case (Public Trial) takes 12-18 months or longer. It is conducted in Courthouse and open to the public. Procedures and sanitation protocol for each Courthouse is still being determined. Many family law cases will be placed on hold in order to accommodate criminal cases with defendants in jail. The parties do not have any say in which Judge is randomly assigned to their case. However, the parties do not have to pay for the Judge or use of the courtroom.
Private Trials with PTOA are closed to the public. The scheduling of deadlines and timing of the hearing(s) are coordinated between the parties Counsel and the Judge Pro Tem. The case takes priority for Counsel and the Judge Pro Tem. All proceedings are conducted either virtually or in a rented facility (hotel ballroom) that has been sanitized in accordance with CDC guidelines. The parties get equal say in choosing the Judge Pro Tem. However, the parties do have to pay for the Judge and the facility or virtual services.
Q: What is a private trial conducted with social distancing?
A: A Private Trial conducted with Social Distancing is a Trial in which everyone is following CDC guidelines. This means that everyone is 6 feet apart, wearing face masks and taking regular breaks for hand washing. The Judge Pro Tem oversees in the same matter as the District Court Judges oversee their cases. The parties can still have a court reporter. The Proceedings will take place in rented facilities (usually hotel ballrooms) that have been sanitized. These facilities will provide the appropriate liability insurance coverage along with use of facilities and internet access.
Q: What is a private trial conducted virtually?
A: A Private Trial conducted Virtually is a Trial in which everyone appears via a Virtual communications application such as Zoom or BlueJeans. PTOA provides a certified technician that sets up everything and is on call at all times during the trial to make sure all technology is working property.
Q: What happens if a party tries to back out once the Order sending the case to a Judge Pro Tem has been filed?
A: The Order is in place and has the same force and effect as any other Order. The party may terminate or change counsel. The party may choose Pro Se representation. However, the case remains before the Judge Pro Tem unless the parties choose to strike the Order by agreement.
Q: What services does PTOA offer regarding Mediations?
A: Virtual mediations provide many benefits and are just as effective as “in person” mediations The parties and counsel avoid personal contact while saving commute/travel time. PTOA takes care of all scheduling, coordination and setting up the mediation. PTOA’s staff of certified technicians will send the links with instructions and walk everyone through the logistics. The technician will start on the mediation to make sure everyone is connected and comfortable then remain on call throughout the mediation if technical problems arise.
Q: What services does PTOA offer regarding Depositions?
A: PTOA offers both virtual and physical depositions. One of PTOA’s certified technicians will schedule the deposition and take care of all logistics. Virtual depositions will be conducted via either Zoom or BlueJeans applications. Physical depositions will be conducted in facilities that are sanitized and allow room for CDC social distancing compliance.
Q: What services does PTOA offer regarding Parental Coordination?
A: As with the other services, PTOA provides both virtual and physical formats for Parental Coordination. The parties may choose their own PC or utilize one of the Judges Pro Tem.
Q: Can I choose a Judge Pro Tem or Mediator that isn’t listed with PTOA?
A: Yes. We will work with the Professional of your choice to ensure your case is efficiently handled. Please contact us for more details.