A former San Diego Superior Court judge who ruled against arbitration campaigner Jon Perz in his battle with a local car dealership has become an arbitrator.

Judge Steven R. Denton sided against Perz during his six-year case against Mossy Toyota in Pacific Beach. Denton retired in June 2013 and soon after went to work for local arbitration company Judicate West.

Perz claims that he bought a car from Mossy in 2006 that was water-damaged and had several serious defects. Because the lengthy contract he signed with the dealer contained a mandatory arbitration clause, Mossy insisted Perz argue his complaint in arbitration, rather than Superior Court.

In the long, complicated case, which is ongoing, Perz has argued that arbitration will not give him a fair hearing.

Early on in the case, Denton ruled in favor of Mossy, which wanted to compel Perz to fight his suit within the arbitration system.

Then, in 2010, Perz sought to have the arbitrator assigned to his case dismissed after his attorney learned that she had sided with companies in 40 cases and never once ruled in favor of a consumer.

After the arbitration firm refused to dismiss the arbitrator, Perz appealed to Denton, who sided with Mossy again and said Perz must continue to battle the dealership in arbitration.

It’s not at all uncommon for retired judges to go into the lucrative field of private justice. But Perz said he was stung by the news that the judge in his case has essentially joined the team he’s been fighting against for years.

“I just feel like I’ve now gotten the shaft from every possible direction,” Perz said Friday. “(Denton) had every opportunity a few years ago to allow justice to be done. I’m dumbfounded.”

Denton said his judgment in Perz’s case is completely unrelated to his later career move.  He wrote in an email:

As a Superior Court Judge every decision that I made over 13 years represented my best effort to apply the facts to the law that applied to that particular case.  Inherent in the job of judging is that some parties will not agree with any particular legal judgment.

I have retired from the bench after 13 years and am establishing a practice which is primarily directed towards the mediation of litigated matters to help parties settle disputes to avoid the costs and expense of litigation.  Although I am available for arbitration assignments it is my hope that I will be kept busy in helping people resolve their matters through voluntary mediation.

Denton declined to provide the rates he will be charging.

According to Judicate West’s website, “Hourly rates depend on the arbitrator selected. Their hourly rates range from $360.00 – $780.00 per hour.”

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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