Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I’ve been debating Afghanistan policy on my political blog and elsewhere, and here will reprint the post I did on that subject: Politically speaking, it is not a viable position simply to suggest that we pull US and NATO forces out of Afghanistan, because that implies that we don’t care whether the Taliban returns to power and makes Afghanistan into a haven for Al Qaeda once again. Anyone who wants to talk about Afghanistan in a way that might be listened to has the obligation to show that a different strategy has at least as good a chance of fulfilling the objective of keeping the Taliban out of power as our current strategy. One organization that seems to be addressing […]

An article from Pacific Business News shows just how dramatically the number of jury trials has dropped off in the State of Hawaii, where only 17 civil jury trials were completed in the state courts last year.  The trend appears to be the same everywhere, though perhaps not to the drastic extent that has been accomplished in Hawaii.  The article attributes this decline to court-sponsored arbitration and mediation programs.  For example, all personal injury and other tort cases with a value of less than $150,000 are sent to arbitration.  Should mediators be happy about this trend, representing as it does the triumph of alternative dispute resolution, to the point that trial has become a vanishing breed?  One unhappy trial lawyer […]

A hot topic in the litigation field during these bad economic times is how to reduce litigation costs. Numerous articles and discussions have appeared about alternative billing or staffing arrangements that can save clients money, presumably by reducing the amount of time spent on activities that do not advance cases toward trial. I agree that billing by the hour sometimes creates perverse incentives for attorneys, just as it does in any profession that bills by the hour or by the procedure. I also agree that over-staffing and engaging in unnecessary work drives up legal bills. But I also think that discussions about litigating more efficiently sometimes miss the larger point. The best way to reduce litigation costs is not to […]

I posted comments on my litigation blog on a report issued this spring by the American College of Trial Lawyers Task Force on Discovery and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, which recommends a number of reforms of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, chiefly concerning limitations on discovery. This same report gives but a passing nod to alternative dispute resolution. (pp.21-22) The trial lawyers who produced this report are willing to consider what they themselves describe as “radical” changes to the discovery rules, as well as numerous other reforms. Yet, while they recognize the value of mediation, their support for it is lukewarm at best. Although the report recommends that courts raise the possibility of […]

To help my kids with a school mock trial project, we’ve been showing them some classic trial movies, such as Inherit the Wind, A Few Good Men, The Verdict, and of course, My Cousin Vinny. These movies not only illustrate some good trial techniques, they also remind us of how much we enjoy watching the drama of trials. Stories such as these depend on conflict and its resolution captured in a trial. Conflict being deemed essential to a good story, it is only natural that the movies generally avoid telling stories of people peacefully resolving their differences. But some of these movies go even further, by depicting settlement as illegitimate or even evil. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise […]