Periodically, CPR showcases various members of our Distinguished Panel of Neutrals. We are pleased to introduce a new feature, “Meet CPR’s Appellate Panel,” and begin with this interview with Judge Christopher Droney, of Day Pitney LLP.
Droney is a former Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, as well as the former United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. As a federal court of appeals and district judge, he presided over many trials and appeals in all matters that come before the federal courts, including intellectual property, unfair trade practices, employment discrimination, class actions, securities matters, commercial matters, antitrust, technology, insurance and corporate disputes.
A member of faculty for the National Advocacy Center, he taught at the Yale Law School and the University of Connecticut School of Law in trial and appellate courses. As U.S. Attorney, he was a member of Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys and co-chair of its Civil Issues Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference on the Administration of the United States Bankruptcy System and the Board of Directors of Federal Judges Association.
Q. How did you get your start as a neutral?
I got my start as a neutral fairly recently when I retired from the federal bench at the end of 2019. However, before that I was a federal trial judge for fourteen years and a federal appeals judge for eight years. In those positions I gained a great deal of experience in resolving disputes in so many different areas, whether it be commercial, trade secret, employment, antitrust, civil rights, class actions, securities and others. I believe my time on the trial bench and the appellate bench combine for a rare insight into how to arrive at solutions for much-disputed matters and how to assess different sides of matters. That experience also helps in seeing the essence of disputes and the best ways of drilling down on issues.
Q. Do you have any general words of wisdom for parties entering into deals and contracts, when it comes to anticipating future disputes and the right to appeal?
It is very often that the dispute resolution provisions of an agreement get little attention at the time the transaction is completed. That is understandable as the parties typically expect success in all aspects of their relationship. It is a mistake, however, to not give sufficient care in crafting those provisions and making them as specific as possible, especially as to the venue for resolving differences, the choice of law, the arbitral forum, etc. In the unlikely event of the need for those provisions, at least the parameters of how to resolve the disagreement will be clear, and making headway in resolving substantive issues will be more timely.
Q. What makes your style of conflict resolution in the appellate context unique? How is it different from dispute resolution, pre-appeal? Do you have a particular philosophy or approach?
My experience on the Second Circuit is especially helpful. I had eight years of dealing with complex issues in many different substantive areas and in attempting to achieve a common resolution with other judges. I also gained a great deal of experience in becoming a “quick study” in very technical and complicated matters. My experience in the district court helped greatly in being able to understand a variety of trial dockets and the procedures for resolving disputes, including practice rules and evidence.
Q. Which types of conflicts would you recommend for ADR and why?
Most business disputes lend themselves to ADR resolution as it is swifter than litigation, fair and thorough. Perhaps technical areas are particularly well-suited to ADR resolution as the parties can select arbitrators or mediators who have background or experience in the particular area. That is not always true in litigation.
Q. How can parties help to ensure progress when they reach an impasse?
If the parties reach an impasse, the best advice is to have an open mind about a creative solution. Lawyers often are so close to their cases that they sometimes lose perspective and are not as open-minded as they could be. That is where the neutral comes in: to offer solutions that perhaps counsel would not come up with on their own and to explain the positive aspects to all sides.