A new and potentially controversial way of resolving legal disputes ison its way to Florida.

A little-noticed provision among the sweeping changes in civil justiceprocedures that become effective Oct. 1 allows Florida litigants tohire private judges to handle their cases outside the courthouse.They can elect to have the case decided by the private judge or by ajury, with the private judge presiding. Like traditional judges,private ones can issue subpoenas to force documents to be produced andwitnesses to testify, and can make rulings on the law and evidentiarydisputes. To be eligible to be a private judge, five years’ experienceas a lawyer is required.