Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Is a willingness to negotiate a sign of weakness? That seems to be the thrust of the critique of Thomas Frank, the latest prominent leftist critic of the Obama administration. Frank charges that Obama gave away too much to the right, because he stressed the importance of bi-partisanship, when he should have been fighting harder on substantive issues, such as punishing Wall Street bankers, or achieving more economic stimulus. Frank seems to think because the president placed the ideal of bi-partisanship above these other policy goals, he was forced to concede too much to the opposition. The idea is that Obama’s emphasis on bi-partisanship makes him a bad negotiator. Frank thinks that if you announce agreement with them in a cooperative way, that will make […]

Those who take mediation seriously want to encourage parties to participate in good faith, and to prepare properly for mediation sessions, so that the process can achieve maximum benefit. We have to recognize, however, that there can be a tension between the desire to make sure that the parties don’t waste each others’–and the mediator’s–time, and the need for confidentiality, safety and flexibility in making mediation work. In other words, how do you promote the most effective use of mediation without slipping into exactly the kind of rules and sanctions-based world that mediation was designed to escape? Don’t ask the courts to resolve this dilemma, because they don’t see it. Courts are entirely comfortable operating in the world of rules […]

We can trace our justice system back to Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, or Hammurabi’s Code (1700 BCE), if we wish. I’d prefer to start with Aeschylus’s Oresteia, from 458 BCE.  I decided to reread this ancient three part Greek tragedy about the origins of a new concept of justice, to see if it might shed some light on transitions that seem to be occurring in our modern legal system.  Readers might have to bear with me for a few blog posts before I reach that goal. In Agamemnon, the first play of the Oresteia trilogy, Aeschylus tells the story of Agamemnon’s homecoming and murder.  Agamemnon has been away for ten years fighting the Trojan War.  In the meantime, not […]

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 […]

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 […]