Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Collaborative law has firmly established itself in the family law arena, where parties (and attorneys) are often willing to commit in advance to do everything they can to resolve divorce cases out of court. Not so much on the civil side, where the whole idea appears antithetical to traditional litigators. There have been attempts in the past to make civil litigation more, well . . . civil, but the codes that were created in some jurisdictions to encourage more gentlemanly (or ladylike) conduct never seem to get at the root of the problem. The root of the problem lies in the nature of the adversarial system itself, and its tendency to encourage adversarial behavior. More recently, however, it seems that […]

The August issue of the California Bar Journal is devoted to the theme of lawyer as peacemaker. In his introduction, State Bar President Patrick Kelly argues that it is time for lawyers to refocus their efforts from advocacy to more of a problem-solving, peacemaking role. The issue includes a number of articles by prominent ADR practitioners helping to illustrate how lawyers can make this transition. The State Bar President’s recognition that it is time for advocates to work to reduce conflict and solve problems rather than exacerbating conflict and causing problems represents a welcome shift. As Kelly states, to the extent attorneys are able to address the need for problem-solving and peacemaking, that can contribute positively to their ability to […]

In an interview published in the LA Times a couple of weeks ago, the new Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer was asked about his approach to a well-publicized case in which the city has been enjoined from removing personal property that homeless people leave on public sidewalks. (The case is currently on appeal.) His response: There are elements of this litigation I see as an opportunity to solve a problem. Litigation is rather a blunt instrument and has yet to get to the underlying issues. The fact that there is litigation means there has been a failure of public policy. It’s important to address homelessness in a nuanced way. I’m committed to striking a balance that enhances conditions for homeless […]

I try to avoid second guessing juries, even when they don’t come out the way I might think they should. And I generally would not say that any acquittal in the criminal justice system shows that the system is not working. That’s because our criminal justice system is supposed to be based on the premise that it is better that ten guilty men go free than that one innocent person is convicted. A wrongful conviction might be used as evidence that the system is not working. But an acquittal, even of a guilty defendant, shows the system is working the way it was designed. But if the acquittal in the Zimmerman case can be taken as evidence that the system […]

Thanks to the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel for putting on an informative program tonight detailing changes about to take place in the LA Superior Courts due to budget cuts. Thanks especially for the plug provided for the Southern California Mediation Association’s program still in development to provide a referral source for mediators. SCMA’s program is intended to make up to some extent for the imminent abandonment of ADR administrative services by the courts. Neither the court nor SCMA are going to be able to make up entirely for the loss of the court’s effective procedures for referring cases to mediation. The court has apparently decided, however, that it can no […]

I find myself charged with an unexpected project, trying to figure out how to deal with the probable demise of one of the largest court-assisted ADR programs in the country. At the same time, the court system is also implementing drastic funding cutbacks that are likely to increase backlogs and reduce the availability of court services, suggesting that mediation is needed more than ever to resolve disputes that the court system is less and less capable of resolving. The elimination of funding for the LA County Superior Court ADR program, expected to take place by June of this year, combined with these other cutbacks, presents a unique opportunity for other organizations–such as the Southern California Mediation Association, of which I […]