Judgment Confirming Arbitration Award Is Reversed, And Appeal From Sanction Order Is Dismissed.
Wendy Kronick appealed from the trial court’s judgment confirming an arbitration award in favor of her former family law attorney, Debra A. Opri. Kronick v. Opri, B241510 (2/1 Sept. 30, 2014) (Ashmann-Gerst, Chavez, Ferns) (unpublished). Ms. Kronick argued that the trial judge committed errors by failing to follow the procedure dictated by an arbitration clause when the judge appointed the arbitrator in an attorney-client fee dispute.
Kronick initially provided the names of two arbitrators to Opri, who rejected them, and Opri provided names that Kronick rejected. Opri complained to Kronick about a “circular display of how much you seek to frustrate the arbitration process.” Eventually, the trial judge took control of the situation, and appointed Justice Sheila Sonenshine, Ret., as the arbitrator.
The arbitration clause provided, in relevant part:
“The initiator of the proceedings shall do so in writing by submitting two names of retired California court judges to the responding party, and if the responding party does not agree to any of the two nominees, within ten  days the responding party shall provide two names of retired California superior court judges from which the initiating party may choose one. If the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator, one shall be chosen by a court of competent jurisdiction from the four nominees.”
The Court of Appeal concluded that “[t]he trial court committed multiple errors” when appointing the arbitrator – by my count, at least six errors: (1) the trial court required Opri to unilaterally select an arbitral forum before the arbitrator was agreed upon, whereas the arbitration clause required selection of the arbitrator to dictate the arbitral forum; (2) the trial court erroneously accused Kronick of failing to submit two nominees; (3) the trial court erred by rejecting the two nominees, requiring Kronick instead to submit two names from JAMS; (4) the court held a continued hearing date on September 23, 2010, despite having told Kronick the hearing date would be October 23; (5) the court rejected Kronick’s two nominees because unacceptable to Opri, and accepted two new nominees from Opri, essentially giving Opri four nominees; (6) the court chose Justice Sonenshine, though she was not one of Opri’s original two nominees, and did not give Kronick an opportunity to agree to a new nominee.
Needless to say, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment confirming the arbitration award.
However, Kronick’s appeal of a discovery sanction of $3,200 was dismissed, because it was less than $5,000, and non-appealable. On the brighter side for Kronick, the Court of Appeal informs us that she and her husband “reconciled” – and it was legal work related to their marital dispute that led to Opri’s fee claim against Kronick in the first place.
BONUS: Ms. Opri’s website describes her as “widely considered to be one of the most recognizable female litigation attorneys of the 21st Century, both in the courtroom and on television.” Ms. Kronick was the plaintiff in another case posted about on February 11, 2014, on California Attorney’s Fees, in which case, among other things, she claimed that the defendant kicked her seven-month old Dalmatian puppy in a park.