January 29, 2020 Dispute Resolution Magazine

From the Chair

Joan Stearns Johnsen

Welcome to the first issue of Dispute Resolution Magazine in 2020. I wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year and hope you enjoyed your holidays with time well spent with friends and families.

In this issue, we explore dispute resolution and criminal law. Because a focus within our practice area is party self-determination and autonomy, many of us don’t think about using our skills in criminal justice matters. The authors in this issue identify how our skill set can be used effectively as a tool in aid of criminal justice, particularly in the areas of plea bargaining, system design, and restorative justice.

Innovative applications of the dispute resolution practitioner’s skill set are a theme running through this bar year as well as through our profession. Our ability to identify and resolve conflict can be deployed to improve access to justice. For example, our Online Dispute Resolution Task Force is exploring current and emerging uses of online dispute resolution in the public and private sectors. The task force is studying possible legislative initiatives as well as ethical principles and standards.

In addition, the Task Force on Innovative Processes of Conflict Prevention is exploring how we can adapt our skills to conflict prevention through the use of standing and stand-by neutrals as well as deal facilitators. This task force is focused on effecting the implementation of our dispute resolution techniques at ever earlier stages in order to help manage and maintain relationships and prevent nascent conflict from devolving into litigation.

With all these efforts, our goal is to keep Section members informed about and ready for change in our profession even before it happens. As we help you grow the areas of dispute resolution subspecialties, we also want to help you manage and grow your personal practices. Anna Rappaport and Natalie Armstrong-Motin are engaged in a project to establish a Practice Development/Practice Management Library. This new and evolving effort aims to provide you with the most comprehensive and definitive collection anywhere, one that will help you manage the cases you have, get new ones, and manage all that extra work.

Among the volunteers working tirelessly on behalf of our Section and our profession are those who organized our very successful Mediation Institute, which was held in November at the South Texas College of Law Houston. Sincere thanks go to Jim Alfini and Debra Berman, South Texas faculty and Section leaders. Another very loud shout-out goes to our amazing Planning Committee members Susan Guthrie, Edd McDevitt, Harold Coleman, and Ana Sambold. The program was outstanding, but we expected nothing less from this first-class committee and its carefully selected institute faculty.

Looking ahead: the next event to put on your calendars is the Arbitration Institute in Phoenix on March 9 and March 10, 2020. Our Institute Program Committee, Chairs Bruce Meyerson and Dana Welch, with help from Thomas Hanrahan, Harrie Samaras, Ron Wiesenthal, and David Tenner, have been planning this program for more than a year. Among this year’s highlights will be a lunch plenary on the topic of how arbitrators get into trouble and what to do about it, presented by Tracey Frisch of the American Arbitration Association. Last year this event sold out.

Please also note that our Annual Spring Conference will be held in New Orleans from April 22 to April 25 during Jazz Fest. Our 2020 theme, “Innovation, Improvisation, and Inspiration,” dovetails beautifully with the work of the Section and the conference locale. Our Spring Conference Committee is led by Alan Weiner, Jaya Sharma, and Gina Miller with help from many others who have been working nonstop since last spring. April will be here very soon. I look forward to seeing many of you in a few short months.

Our Section exists because so many professionals choose to support us. We welcome you whatever your level of interest, but we enthusiastically welcome your involvement. Please reach out if you would like to be active. Thanks for the honor of serving as this year’s chair.

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Joan Stearns Johnsen

Joan Stearns Johnsen is the senior legal skills Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and serves as an arbitrator and mediator. She can be reached at joan@jsj-adr.com.