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Now is a good time to look at the state of community mediation in the United States. This is not only because community conflict resolution work has grown remarkably over the past 35 years, or even because community programs have responded and continue to respond to local community, court and agency needs in many innovative ways.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Section of Dispute Resolution and the 15th anniversary of our increasingly successful spring meeting, and so it is fitting that the conference will feature two nationally recognized “giants” in public service who have made monumental contributions to the field of alternative dispute resolution.
Community mediation centers have become part of the fabric of many local legal cultures, however, there is growing concern, if not outright alarm, about the centers’ long-term sustainability and ability to respond to increased demands for service. This article examines one state’s experience in implementing a statutorily created statewide community dispute resolution system and offers recommendations for moving forward.
Conflict resolution is a growth industry. While trials may be “vanishing,” community access to justice needs abound. Unfortunately, adequate funding does not. This is the story of the Good Shepherd Mediation Program (GSMP), a neighborhood justice center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that has been providing community mediation and related services since 1984.
I believe that community mediation centers can be an agent for changing the polarization that today impedes civil discourse. The community mediation field is built on values – empathy, communication, empowerment and respect among them – that can move our competitive, winner-take-all society toward greater collaboration and relationship-building.
I tried parachuting into conflicts several other times. In three I was thrown out (“We can handle this ourselves, thank you.”), in two I was accepted, and one of those came to an agreement. My hypothesis is that my offer of help had the best chance of being accepted when I could find an adequately legitimate sponsor for my entrance.
“We’re 38,” says one of four Streetworkers as they meet with me, their role-play coach. I think to myself (with a mental shrug), “Gee, they don’t look that old.” So, with puzzled curiosity, I reply, “Thirty-eight?” “Yeah. We just figured out that altogether, the four of us have spent 38 years in jail.”
As schools and other public institutions struggle for funding, law schools and their students have new opportunities to fill unmet needs by providing consulting expertise in facilitation and dispute resolution. Such partnerships can provide valuable service for the institutions while giving students a chance to apply their skills to issues in nearby communities.
Taken as a whole, the empirical research suggests that both fear and guilt appeals, skillfully executed, can be effective in changing minds. But as noted earlier, this begs the normative question: Are such “negative” emotional appeals an appropriate exercise in mediator persuasion?
Roger inspired thousands of students to appreciate the power of creativity, legitimacy, and putting themselves in the other side’s shoes – and to believe they can make a difference. He articulated a breathtakingly comprehensive analytic framework of tools and insights for systematically diagnosing a conflict, problem, or negotiation and crafting an optimal strategy for dealing with it.
In Nitro-Lift Tech LLC v. Howard, 133 S. Ct. 500 (Nov. 26, 2012) Nitro-Lift issued a demand for arbitration to two former employees claiming breach of noncompetition agreements that had been signed as a condition of employment. The employees brought suit seeking to have the noncompetition agreements rendered void under Oklahoma state law.
The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work honors individuals whose scholarship has significantly contributed to the dispute resolution field. Professor Leonard Riskin, the Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, has helped us appreciate the radically different “philosophical maps” used by attorneys operating in traditional adversarial and collaborative systems