Hon. Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.) served as a Judge for 16 years in the First Judicial District, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She most recently served in the Trial Division, Civil Program for 11 years assigned to Motions Court rotation and the Complex Litigation Program with the majority of her time spent in the Civil Major Jury Trial Program where she oversaw a vast array of complex civil disputes. Prior to her tenure on the bench, Judge Rizzo acquired a wide range of experience tied to the corporate, public, and private sectors including her work as litigator for a prominent Mid-Atlantic firm that is the oldest continuous law firm in the United States, as Senior Counsel at one of the largest global providers of insurance, and serving as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia.
In 2008, Judge Rizzo developed the Court’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program. The program, which continues today, is a pioneering achievement of ADR as it brings together, in conference, homeowners, lenders, attorneys, and housing counselors in an effort to keep city residents in their homes. The court-annexed mediation program has been a model for similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions in states such as NJ, NY, KY, IL, MD, and DE.
Judge Rizzo has testified about the Program before TARP, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives. She was a panelist at a White House conference invited by the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force. Judge Rizzo continues to speak nationally about the program at trainings for the judiciary, government agencies, mortgage finance companies, public interest entities, lender servicers, and in academia. These diverse organizations include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks America, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and many others. Internationally, Judge Rizzo participated in a European Union Conference and CLE program in Italy regarding the merits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Foreclosure Diversion Program, and international mediation systems.
At the invitation of Philadelphia’s City Council in 2020, Judge Rizzo joined a creative team that developed an innovative Eviction Prevention & Diversion Program modeled after the successful Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program which she established and oversaw during her tenure on the bench. This inclusive team was composed of City of Philadelphia representatives, Housing Counselors, and members of the Public Interest Law sector, the Landlord bar and CORA Good Shepherd Meditation (CORA GSM), among others.
This new, collaborative and highly effective program leverages the powerful benefits of ADR to offer relief to the full range of stakeholders suffering from the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. CORA GSM oversees pre-filing mediation sessions conducted by skilled volunteer mediators who are specially trained to handle these matters. More than twenty JAMS neutrals nationwide have volunteered to participate in this pro bono effort to offer assistance to landlords and tenants and help them negotiate sustainable deals. The program has received recognition and widespread media coverage praising this practical and responsive program as a national model. Selected articles can be found in the “Professional Activities” section of this biography.
Just prior to taking the bench, Judge Rizzo worked for seven years as Senior Counsel at CIGNA Companies where she oversaw coverage litigation involving mass tort, environmental, and long-term exposure claims. She coordinated litigation management of underlying mass tort cases and oversaw multiple initiatives in the Government Affairs Division. Prior to her tenure at CIGNA Companies, Judge Rizzo served with the Philadelphia Office of the City Solicitor and then in the Litigation Department of the law firm of Rawle & Henderson, where she gained experience in litigation in matters involving general casualty, toxic tort, defamation, product liability, medical malpractice, correctional health care, and civil rights.
Judge Rizzo currently serves as an Adjunct Professor for the Temple University School of Law State Court Clinical Program, which she developed in 2007.
ADR Experience and Qualifications
In her experience on the bench and in private practice, Judge Rizzo has acquired a tremendous variety of ADR experience, including:
- As a Judge in the First Judicial District, she presided over 650 civil trials covering a wide range of practice areas
- Created and oversaw the First District Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program, a landmark achievement in ADR
- As Senior Counsel at CIGNA Companies, participated in arbitrations and mediations as counsel to the client
- Prior to her judicial career, she served as a certified arbitrator in both the Federal and State Court arbitration programs
- As a litigator at Rawle & Henderson, participated in mediations and arbitrations
While on the bench and in private practice, Judge Rizzo gained experience in the following practice areas:
- Business Commercial: Breach of contract and indebtedness, civil forfeitures, commercial foreclosures, corporate and business governance, declaratory judgments, discovery disputes, fraud, indemnification and contribution, injunctive relief, insurance claims, partnerships/joint ventures, premises liability, replevin, shareholder disputes, unfair/deceptive business practices, consumer finance litigation
- Civil Rights: Correctional health care; police misconduct
- Class Action/Mass Tort: Auto product liability, civil rights, environmental disasters, insurance settlements and funds, mass property damage, medical device product liability, pharmaceutical product liability
- Employment: Discrimination, including, race, gender, age, disability, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation; employment contract disputes; FELA; labor-management relations and labor disputes; non-competition; trade secrets, retaliation; sexual harassment; wage and hour claims; whistleblower; wrongful termination
- Environmental: Complex coverage litigation, superfund
- Insurance: Insurance and reinsurance issues, including those relative to claims, subrogation, policy language, regulation, and business strategy
- Personal Injury/Torts: Catastrophic injury; medical malpractice; nursing home litigation; wrongful death; product liability; premises liability (commercial and residential); industrial accidents; environmental; workplace accidents arising out of workers compensation claims; automotive; heavy machinery; medical; dental; failure to diagnose; birth injuries; burn injuries; construction site injuries
- Professional Liability: Legal, medical
- Real Property: Zoning, partitions ejectment, foreclosure