Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Although the budget crisis in California has lasted for years, the state court system has until now managed to avoid the worst possible scenarios. Courts have survived these hard times by depleting their reserves and diverting their capital budgets for operations. Having exhausted those strategies, and with no prospect of restoration of full funding in sight, the courts have finally had to take more drastic actions to grapple with huge funding shortfalls. Recently, the Los Angeles County Court system announced their plan to deal with budget cuts by closing 10 regional courthouses, including the branch courthouses in Beverly Hills, Malibu, Pomona, and Whittier. These facilities may end up staying open only for such purposes as paying traffic tickets. Their courtrooms […]

Kenneth Feinberg was the keynote speaker at the SCMA fall conference yesterday, where we presented him with the Cloke‑Millen Peacemaker of the Year Award. Feinberg gave a fascinating talk on the dilemmas involved in allocating compensation to victims of such famous disasters as the BP Gulf Oil spill, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado. In each case, Feinberg was largely successful in avoiding protracted litigation and compensating victims relatively quickly, using criteria that he and his team largely had to invent. Even so, few victims of these disasters chose to go to court after taking the route of an established compensation scheme, even when they retained that option. Feinberg […]

Forrest (Woody) Mosten is a mediation trainer, and a prominent collaborative divorce lawyer and mediator here in Los Angeles. I came to his attention when I attended a seminar last year that he led on collaborative law, in which I had some fun playing a somewhat skeptical role. This week I had a chance to meet with Woody to discuss the possibility of a different kind of collaboration–possibly leading to an article or a book–and learned more about Woody’s background as one of the pioneers in developing legal clinics for middle class clients (having been one of the founders of Jacoby & Meyers), as well as in unbundling legal services. We talked about how our different career paths (mine the […]

When we use a phrase like “alternative dispute resolution,” we are usually referring to alternatives to bringing a lawsuit. Those who practice in the ADR field are often trying to persuade litigants to give up the right to sue, on the ground that the alternatives to court are better, cheaper or faster. Should ADR advocates be concerned when parties are compelled to give up their right to go to court even before a dispute arises? My answer would be yes, because I think arbitration or mediation should be freely chosen by the parties, not forced on them. And also because the word “alternative” loses all meaning if it is the only alternative. The right to jury trial should remain available […]

As anyone who has made it through my four part series of posts on Aeschylus already knows, I’ve spent a little time thinking about the evolution of our legal system from earliest times. One can trace the history of our system of justice from a cycle of revenge killings, to a divinely-inspired system of earthly justice, to the beginnings of a third stage, interest-based approach represented by the growth of alternative dispute resolution. An article in this month’s Atlantic magazine by Cullen Murphy, adapted from his new book on the Inquisition, makes some interesting points about the place of torture in this history, and our continuing connections to the methods developed during the Inquisition. Although we think of torture as […]