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     Portland, Oregon 97221
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Neutral Services    Picture of Jacob Tanzer  
Neutral services means anything else the parties think can help avoid or resolve disputes. Lawyers being creative people, neutral services can take many forms. Let me describe some illustrative situations.

Evaluation. In a business tort case, the jury awarded $12 million compensatory damages and $10 million punitive damages to plaintiff. The judge took away the punitive damages. Defendant appealed the $12 million judgment; Plaintiff cross-appealed to restore the $10 million. The case was briefed in elaborate detail and set for oral argument in the Court of Appeals. Lawyers for both parties retained me under an agreed procedure. I was to study the briefs, read the meaningful authorities and attend oral argument. Then, the parties, including trial counsel and house counsel from outside the state, reassembled in my office. I laid out my analysis of how the court would resolve each issue presented by the case. No questions were allowed except for clarification. Then I was excused and the parties negotiated directly. The case settled at midnight the next day.

Facilitation. In a more recent case, an advocacy group for disabled children sued the State of Oregon and the local school district to invalidate certain allegedly discriminatory testing arrangements. The case was referred to mediation by a federal judge who brought the parties to a process (rather than a substantive) agreement: the matter was referred to a blue-ribbon panel of nationally prominent educators for their judgment. I was selected as a "moderator" to preside over the work of the panel of experts. It was my job to see that their report addressed all the issues of the case in a form which was useful in the fashioning of a judgment. We did and the case was resolved by a consent judgment.

Property Division. A diverse trove of Nazi-disapproved artwork spirited out of Germany in the late 1930's was found by a trial judge to be owned by parties in a 3/1 ratio. The judge appointed me a referee to effect a value-based distribution of the artwork. After unsuccessful attempts to bring the parties to agreement, I reserved certain pieces for sale by an international auction house and distributed the remaining pieces to the parties by round-robin.

In-house Investigation. A major corporation settled a whistle-blower action. It retained me to investigate and evaluate its subcontractor's liability to it for having improperly handled the underlying situation. The corporation and its subcontractor settled informally based on my report.

In another in-house investigation, minority shareholder/investors suspected the CEO and majority shareholder of improper, indeed fraudulent conduct. It was agreed by all shareholders that I investigate. I inferred that fraud had been committed and, soon thereafter, it was discovered that the books had been cooked. The dispute settled.

The opportunities for neutral services are as diverse as the imaginations of lawyers multiplied by the cases they handle.