Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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A big battle is shaping up in Congress in the next few weeks over extending the Bush tax cuts.  If Congress does not act before the end of the year, all of these tax cuts will expire automatically, an outcome that is favored by hardly anyone.  Instead, Republicans would prefer that all of the tax cuts be made permanent, while Democrats favor making the tax cuts for those making under $250,00 a year permanent, while allowing rates to rise for those making above that amount.  There are also a number of intermediate possibilities: the most prominent one being floated would allow the middle class tax cuts to become permanent but extend tax cuts for the wealthy for a couple of […]

If there is a dispute about the contents or the existence of an agreement of the parties following a mediation, is it ever appropriate for the mediator to testify?  The California Second District Court of Appeal, in Radford v. Shehorn, said that such testimony would only be allowed if the parties agreed to it, meaning that it is hard to think of a situation where testimony by the mediator would ever be permissible or useful.  (But see this post by Vickie Pynchon on another (unpublished) case where the mediator was permitted to testify that a written agreement the insurance company was seeking to enforce conformed to what the parties agreed during the mediation.) In the Radford case, there was a […]

Attacking proposed arms control agreements is a time-honored political game.  Virtually every major arms control treaty between the US and the Soviet Union was subjected to fierce criticism from hard line Senators.  Either the deals were too generous to the other side, or they did not provide adequate verification, or they limited US freedom to develop important weapons systems.  This feature of Cold War politics has now been revived by Mitt Romney, past and presumptively future Republican Presidential candidate.  No doubt hoping to burnish his foreign policy credentials, Romney has come out strongly against the proposed START treaty with Russia, in an article in the Washington Post.  I’m not going to get into a detailed point-by-point discussion of Romney’s attacks […]

Starting in Contracts class in law school, lawyers are conditioned to think of ambiguity in agreements as a bad thing.  If a contract is ambiguous, it could be nullified as based on a mutual mistake. (I always think of the case of the two ships named Peerless.)  Even if an ambiguous document creates an enforceable contract, parties may be compelled to resort to the laborious practice of examining course of dealing, customs and practice and external evidence of the parties’ intentions, in order to discern the contract’s meaning.  There are times, however, when the parties find it advantageous deliberately to allow some ambiguity to creep into a written document in order to reach agreement in the first place.  Case in […]

One of the more interesting courses I took in law school was International Law, which is not a course that everyone takes, because it does not appear to offer much practical value for most lawyers’ careers.  I didn’t see much practical value in it either when I signed up, but found that it got me thinking about the law in a much different way from other law school courses.   What you learn when you study international law is that the system of international law is for the most part not structured as a body of statutes enacted by legislatures, or precedents handed down by judges.  International law is mostly not enforced by police, or by fines, or by prison.  Because […]