Judge Knight’s experience in the courtroom, where civil cases could take as long as five years to get to trial, inspired him to leave the security of a judgeship in 1979 and open a one-man mediation practice in Santa Ana, CA. Thus was the beginning of the first JAMS office and Judge Knight’s extraordinary contributions to the field of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
At that time, arbitration and mediation were rarely chosen voluntarily by attorneys, but Judge Knight believed he could convince them to embrace private dispute resolution as a quicker and more efficient process. Changing the legal culture was an uphill battle, but Judge Knight, encouraged by his wife Carolyn and others, was not deterred. His reputation as a fair and thoughtful judge, coupled with his warmth and unbridled enthusiasm for ADR, soon brought lawyers to the mediation table. As business increased, fellow judges and attorneys joined JAMS as mediators and arbitrators in locations throughout California. Over forty years later, JAMS has grown to be the world’s largest private ADR provider with hearing locations across the globe.
Many have lauded Judge Knight as a visionary who saw a better way for attorneys to do business and he never stopped believing it. As a result of Judge Knight’s vision, JAMS has become a global ADR leader that has driven innovation in the industry for more than four decades.
Judge Knight possessed the ideal disposition for a mediator: a comforting presence, superior listening skills, a sharply honed sense of justice, and an infectious sense of humor. His lifelong commitment to conflict resolution has inspired new generations of lawyers to view ADR as both essential and commonplace. Judge Knight’s legacy lives on in two of his proudest achievements: the JAMS Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofits in the dispute resolution field; and the JAMS Society, in which JAMS associates perform thousands of hours of pro bono activity each year for numerous causes.