chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
April 14, 2023

Letter from the Board

By the Dispute Resolution Magazine Editorial Board

Access to justice is a foundational concern of the legal profession and society as a whole. The scales of justice mean little if resolution of disputes is not accessible, even-handed, and timely.

Much is written today of a perceived two-tiered system of justice. While no one is above the law, equal justice under the law provides an important counter-measure—both principles go hand in hand. One without the other leaves the public questioning whether the ends of justice are being met. Similarly, because justice delayed is often justice denied, timely resolution of disputes is of paramount concern.

This issue addresses access to justice from multiple frameworks and highlights the importance of these overriding principles and attempts to meet these needs. While all aspects and applications of justice cannot be addressed in a single publication, these authors have examined access to justice from a variety of instructive viewpoints. 

Addressing the issue from a rural perspective, Stacey Marz and Loren Hildebrandt walk us through an innovative program launched by the Alaska Court System to speedily identify, earmark, and resolve a wide range of family law disputes in a cost-effective manner with minimum disruption to the parties and maximum efficiency. The Early Resolution Program has streamlined Alaska’s court docket through a combination of mediation, conciliation, or a settlement judge’s oversight—all dependent on the nature of the underlying conflict. The program, launched in 2009, has been a national model for case management and is the recipient of the 2021 Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Building on issues faced by rural communities, Kristen M. Blankley and Kelly Riley guide us through the successful use of mediation in Nebraska. The latest efforts seek to implement an online dispute resolution mechanism to provide even greater access to dispute resolution resources. Myles Montgomery then takes a greater dive into how high-speed internet provides greater access to justice in rural communities. Myles discusses rural poverty, examining the digital divide, and legislative efforts currently underway to bridge that gap.

Turning to city and international settings, Tracey Frisch and Gregory Kochansky of the AAA/ICDR discuss three of the Foundation’s recent programs. Those programs aim to employ mediation for low emergent 911 calls in Dayton, Ohio to relieve demands on law enforcement while aiding police reform; improve police training in Chicago neighborhoods with high crime rates; and curb violence in the United States and Latin America by focusing on violence as a public health crisis.

Stepping away from community access matters, Brandon D. Miller and Robert A. Lusk analyze the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2022. The Act renders arbitration of sexual harassment and sexual assault claims voidable at the option of the employee bringing a claim. Brandon and Robert discuss pros and cons of the Act.

And finally, we look at the 2023 Sander Award Winner: A congressional committee with a track record of bipartisan results. Grande Lum and Bruce Patton analyze the extraordinary results of the “Mod-Com” Committee and the structural methods employed by its chair and vice-chair to avoid gridlock and polarization. These methods, no doubt, can be employed in a range of scenarios to find common ground.

Access to justice is at the heart of our legal system. We hope this issue illustrates creative efforts undertaken by various communities in multiple contexts to further access and spark discussion on how dispute resolution principles can be adapted to meet local demands. 

    The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.