Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Each time we are forced to deal with another attempted or successful political assassination or other violent act, we react in a slightly different way, depending on the political concerns of the moment.  Some past incidents have sparked calls for stricter gun controls.  Sometimes we have heard cries for more law and order.  You used to hear people blame overly permissive child-rearing practices for violent or disruptive behavior.  Sometimes violence has been explained as the result of injustice or prejudice in society.  This time, in the wake of the attempted Giffords assassination, we have heard a lot of talk identifying the high level of violent rhetoric among politicians and the media as a source of the problem. Attempts to draw […]

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 […]

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 […]

In a post on my political blog, I discussed the president’s plan to hold a bipartisan session on health insurance reform, which at face value seems to represent an offer to mediate or negotiate a consensus bill, or at least to invite the Republicans back into the process. The Republican leadership has responded by demanding that the Democrats admit that their whole effort to reform the health care system was a mistake and that they agree to start over. The Democrats don’t seem inclined to do that, but they don’t seem to expect they will persuade many Republicans to support the bills passed by the House or Senate either.  Rather, their offer to hold a public negotiating session may aim […]