Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I’ve been listening to the cast album from the musical “Hamilton”, in preparation for finally getting to see the show when it comes to LA later this summer. One of the bits of historical information that can be gleaned from this show concerns the rules of dueling, still a fairly common occurence in the early 19th Century. We may think we have progressed far beyond the barbaric practice of dueling, but based on the way dueling is described in this show, it appears to function in much the same way as as our more modern systems of dispute resolution today. The so-called “ten duel commandments” reveal that the whole ritual of dueling actually incorporates a system based on negotiation. In […]

Ryo Oyamada was fatally mowed down by a police car in New York City four years ago. An article in the New York Daily News today reported on the settlement of a family’s suit against the police department for the wrongful death of their son. I was struck by a statement the family is reported to have released explaining their decision to accept the settlement: “Our family feels that there is no way to hold the NYPD accountable through the court system.” It’s sad to hear of a party that feels so defeated by accepting a settlement. I know nothing about this particular case, aside from the scanty details provided in the news article, but it seems unfortunate that the family […]

At the ABA Dispute Resolution Conference, I had a chance to hear a panel of experts from around the world talk about different ways of viewing the mediator’s role in helping achieve a just result for parties using the process. In China, which has a couple of thousands of years of experience using variants of mediation, the mediator’s role in this regard is viewed very differently from the west, where the practice is of relatively recent vintage. There, mediators have the power, even the duty, to make sure that the result accords with legal norms, and can even prescribe a different outcome from one the parties express. In countries such as the UK, Australia, and the US, on the other […]

More evidence that the practice of law has changed in fundamental ways: At a panel presentation this week at the SCMA Employment Mediation Institute, Ann Kotlarski, who represents employers and Curt Surls, who represents employees, both agreed that they prefer to resolve employer-employee disputes without litigation if possible. Surls said that he always sends detailed demand letters setting forth the factual background his client has presented, as well as the legal basis for his client’s claims, before filing a complaint. These letters usually do not contain specific monetary demands, but  do include an invitation to mediate the dispute. Kotlarski also initiates attempts at early dispute resolution. She always calls the plaintiff’s attorney as soon as she gets a complaint or […]

Confidentiality agreements often serve the short-term interests of the parties to a particular dispute: An enterprise accused of wrongdoing has a strong interest in keeping its alleged wrongful actions secret, both to protect its reputation and to dissuade others from suing. At the same time, individuals bringing such accusations have an incentive to agree to requests for secrecy, which are often demanded in exchange for settlement payments. In the new movie Spotlight, in which a motion to unseal court records plays a central part, the practice of entering into confidential settlement agreements providing a small amount of compensation to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, is portrayed as a shameful means of allowing the Church to cover up crimes […]