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April 07, 2021

ABA dispute resolution meeting tackles racial equity, pandemic-related issues in ADR

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2021 — The 2021 Virtual Annual Spring Conference of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution will be April 14-17 with a full agenda over four days, including a host of programs focusing on topics related to bias and inequality, the impact of COVID-19 and the use of technology in the context of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

The section will also honor professors from law schools in Toledo, Ohio and Boston.

Annual Spring Conference
Sponsored by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution

Wednesday-Friday, April 14-17


A plenary session will feature Timothy Zaal, a former organizer and member of hateful and violent white supremacist groups who has since changed his viewpoints. For the past 17 years, Zaal has been the facilitator of the “From the Depths of Hate” program at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. He speaks at a noon ET event on Friday, April 16.

The conference will also pay tribute to two American icons who passed away last year: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis. The one-hour program on Thursday, April 15 at 4:15 p.m. ET is titled, “Notoriously Good Trouble: Dispute Resolution Professionals Continuing the Legacies of Legends Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis.” The program, using their words and actions, will share Ginsburg and Lewis quotes and anecdotes that can inform and inspire ADR lawyers.

Program highlights for the three broad topics include:

Bias and inequality:

·       “Truth and Reconciliation: Advancing Equity in Law Enforcement” Cities across the U.S. have closely scrutinized how their public safety agencies enforce the law, in some cases slashing police funding or replacing leadership. The panel will examine the efforts of several communities that use professional neutrals to facilitate consensus around recommendations to improve equity in policing and align public safety practices with expectations.
Wednesday, 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET

·       “Resolving Civil Rights Disputes in the Age of Disruption” — Deadly confrontations between minority suspects and law enforcement have inflamed racial tensions, and civil rights lawsuits allege constitutional violations, excessive force, municipal liability and tortious conduct. Courts are backlogged and cities have limited resources. The program explores how ADR can help resolved these highly contentious conflicts.
Thursday, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET

The impact of the pandemic:

·       “Covid Response Court Mediation Programs: Eviction, Foreclosure, Bankruptcy and Others” — The panel, drawing from several jurisdictions and courts, will provide an overview of various court ADR programs that have been newly implemented in the wake of Covid-19.

Wednesday, 10:30-11:30 ET

·       “The Post-Pandemic Arbitration: Old School or New Age? When the COVID-19 vaccination is successful, the world may be returning to normal: airplanes will be filled again with opposing parties and their counsel flying to hearings at venues throughout the world. Or will they? For the answers about what post-pandemic arbitration will look like, this panel of nationally known arbitrators and arbitration attorneys share their insights.

Friday, 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET

Online technology:

·       “The Good, Bad and Ugly: The Art of Negotiations Online” -- Three expert mediator-arbitrators who have participated in several hundred remote mediations/arbitrations will discuss the impact of remote technology on the art of negotiations, highlighting changes in the culture, dynamics between players and how changes have influenced strategies and resolutions.

Wednesday, 3-4 p.m. ET

·       “New Ethical Issues that Arise in an Online Arbitration Environment” -- The online environment for arbitration poses new ethical dilemmas for advocates and arbitrators. Among them: ethically inquiring about potential arbitrators; applying the traditional ethical standards to advocates and online conduct; and arbitrators assuring parties a full and fair opportunity to present their cases when they may prefer and even insist on an in-person opportunity to do so.

Thursday, 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET

On Thursday, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET, the section’s Arbitration Committee will host a discussion focusing on business-to-business arbitration issues as a follow up to new ABA policy. At February’s Midyear Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 100, which supports the use of arbitration in business-to-business disputes, both domestically and internationally, as an efficient and economical method of ADR.

Several awards will be presented during the virtual conference including the following:

The D'Alemberte Raven Award will go to Benjamin Davis, who retired recently as a faculty member from the University of Toledo School of Law. He previously served in various academic positions, and from 1986 to 1999 he was a legal counsel at the ICC International Court of Arbitration among other jobs there. Davis created international fast-track commercial arbitration and the International Competitions for Online Dispute Resolution. The award honors Talbot D’Alemberte and Robert D. Raven, who each held the unique position of being both ABA presidents and chairs of either the section or its predecessor.

The 2021 Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work will be presented to Dwight Golann, research professor of law at Suffolk University in Boston. He is the author of the ABA’s “Mediating Legal Disputes,” law school textbooks and other publications. In 2020, he taught and trained for ADR organizations on five continents.

The conference agenda can be found online here. Media can register by emailing Bill Choyke at [email protected].

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