When some of South Florida’s most influential legal professionals gathered around a conference refreshment table to discuss doomsday scenarios for the state judicial branch, one jurist stood apart from the rest, cheery and energetic.

Retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Paul Siegel was busily promoting his new enterprise, Voluntary Trial Resolution — private trials before a hired judge, a state-sanctioned practice little-known and rarely used. Although the option has been in state law since 1999, few lawyers have ventured into those uncharted waters.

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