Believing that not all cases need to go to court, Judge Al Gerson was the first judge in Jefferson County to adopt a local rule requiring mediation in appeals filed in small claims litigation.
For that commitment, Gerson, judge of Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1, was honored with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Judicial Leadership Award. The presentation of the award was part of a luncheon recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Act hosted by the Dispute Resolution Center of Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Bar Association and the Jefferson County Young Lawyers Association.
In 1987, the Texas Legislature enacted the ADR Act, which established a state policy to encourage the early resolution of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.
Judge Gerson grew up in Southeast Texas and attended the South Texas College of Law in Houston. He spent 20 years in private practice, before being elected to the bench of CCL1 in October 1984.
However, his friend Judge Don Burgess, Texas 9th Court of Appeals, said Gerson's greatest achievement was marrying his wife Pat in 1974. The couple has two grown children and several grandchildren.
Throughout the years, Judge Gerson has quietly but assuredly supported the principles of dispute resolution by consistently ordering cases to mediation, Burgess said.
The luncheon recognized Gerson for his adherance to a philosophy that mediation provides quick, fair and affordable access to justice for citizens and businesses in the community. He conducts his bench with the idea that "rational people have and should exercise the ability to determine their own outcomes."
The ADR Judicial Leadership Award is presented every five years in honor of the late Michael Bradford. Bradford was a Beaumont attorney, former judge and U.S. Attorney who died in 2003.
The award is granted to a member of the judiciary who demonstrates oustanding leadership in promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution.
Bradford believed in alternative dispute resolution 20 years ago, when the idea was first taking shape, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Dispute Resolution Center of Jefferson County in 1987.
When the center was created, the legal community had begun to realize that not all litigation needed to go to court. A dispute resolution center, Bradford believed, could provide members of the community a way to reach early and peaceful settlement of disputes.
In the last 10 years, the Center has seen the mediation of 6,211 cases.