CPR Council Meeting: Abraham Lincoln and Dispute Resolution

By Xin Judy Wang

The June 22 CPR Council meeting featured a presentation on Abraham Lincoln and dispute resolution by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution’s former CEO & President Thomas J. Stipanowich, the William H. Webster Chair in Dispute Resolution and a law professor at the Straus Institute at Pepperdine University’s Caruso School of Law in Malibu, Calif.

He served as CPR’s president and CEO from 2001 to 2006, and returned to discuss his project, “The Lincoln Way: Abraham Lincoln as a Problem Solver and Manager of Conflict.” 

Stipanowich began his presentation discussing the United States’ fascination with Lincoln, the 16th president. Possibly the nation’s most familiar historical figure along with George Washington, Lincoln lived one of the most documented and written-about lives from the nineteenth century. Almost everyone feels some level of familiarity with Lincoln, attaching him to particular principles, life experiences, or lifestyles. Lincoln was also a self-taught lawyer who worked on a broad spectrum of cases ranging from pig-stealing incidents to representation of railroads.

Stipanowich said he was attracted to Lincoln’s legacy through a telling quote: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” The quote came from Lincoln’s lectures to fellow lawyers around 1850, many of whom were trial attorneys.

From this quote, Stipanowich saw a striking similarity between Lincoln’s peacemaking spirit and CPR’s mission to reduce conflict to enable purpose.

As Stipanowich’s project title suggests, Lincoln was a lifelong problem solver and a conflict manager.

Lawyer Lincoln encouraged fellow trial lawyers to discourage litigation and always sought ways to resolve conflict out of the courtroom to avoid the often-unsatisfactory result through trials. Stipanowich found evidence that Lincoln was an informal mediator and had served as an arbitrator. Once, he organized a minitrial with a judge outside the court, with the judge rendering a nonbinding decision that settled a dispute without going to trial.

Stipanowich found Lincoln recognizing that, especially for reputational conflict–a popular type of suit at the time–going to trial is not the best way, whether one is representing the plaintiff or the defendant. It was better to reach a negotiated settlement privately.

As a politician, Abraham Lincoln navigated across party lines to achieve resolutions in the context of a mega-negotiation to address every stakeholder group. He had contacts in different parts of the country, reaching out to border states and southern politicians. It was his awareness of changing circumstances that led to his campaign leading to the Emancipation Proclamation. The African American community’s support was critical for restoring the union as a growingly important constituency and a necessary force in the military.

As an individual, Lincoln wrestled with internal conflict on self-image, religion, and relationships. Stipanowich found Lincoln to be tremendously influenced by reading the autobiography of Ben Franklin as a teenager, thus developing an enduring rationalist spirit. Lincoln was clear in his mission and ambition: “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” In pursuit of such honor and respect, Lincoln wrestled with depression, a broken engagement, and an avoided duel.

Through navigating conflicts and periods of crisis stemming from his internal and external conflicts, Lincoln built and rebuilt a transformational leadership. Lincoln’s rational, problem-solving spirit is just as relevant today for lawyers, corporations, and interested parties. In Stipanowich’s 2009 article, “Lincoln’s Lessons for Lawyers,” he summarized Lincoln’s legal practice principles:

  1. Use litigation as a last resort—and be frank with your client about its costs and risks.  
  2. Try to be objective in assessing your client’s case; avoid “irrational optimism.” 
  3. Begin negotiating cooperatively and encourage the reliance of others by behaving in a logical and predictable way. Look for trade‐offs.
  4. Seek creative ways of bridging the gap to an agreement that achieves a client’s key goals and priorities in a simple, straightforward manner.
  5. Do not place your own financial interests or ego above the interests of the client.

Thomas, Stipanowich, “Lincoln’s Lessons for Lawyers” Dispute Resolution Magazine 18  (Feb. 1, 2010) (available at https://bit.ly/3INyalO).

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The CPR Council, the governance body of the CPR Institute, promotes the practice of more efficient and effective dispute prevention and resolution. It oversees the development of dispute management resources and tools. The Council’s web page is available at www.cpradr.org/about/cpr-council.

In addition to Tom Stipanowich’s presentation, the June 22 Council meeting also discussed the updated Council Charter, new Council programming, CPR Dispute Resolution Panelists, CPR’s new Immediation Platform for dispute resolution services, and the revised CPR Diversity Commitment. The meeting concluded with a networking session.

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The author, who will be a second-year student at Columbia University Law School in New York this fall, is a 2022 CPR summer intern.

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Judges as Mediators, and the Issues that Won’t Go Away

By Mnotho Ngcobo

If you were to ask a layman what mediation is, the answer would probably be something along the lines of, “a private dispute resolution process where an independent private mediator would attempt to assist parties to reach an agreement/solution to whatever dispute they may be facing.”

But one of the problems with the typical layman’s mediation view is that it doesn’t account for a continually emerging group of individuals working their way into this ADR process–the judicial officers, including judges and magistrates (and noting that different countries have different names for these officials).

Often, parties go to mediation to avoid facing a judicial officer. That’s arguably the best part about ADR . . . or it used to be. Judicial officers are employed to adjudicate disputes. They are trained to uphold law and rules, while private mediators are specialists trained to facilitate disputes–they aren’t primarily focused on procedure, for example, because mediation by its nature is flexible and not rule-based.

What happens when a judicial officer AKA a judge mediates a case? What issues does it raise for the parties in disputes?

The truth is that parties often fear judicial officers, and when a judicial officer is facilitating a mediation, parties might not be comfortable. There is then a risk that a party would agree to something out of fear: What happens when the same judicial officer who facilitated the mediation between the parties is tasked with running the fairness hearing? This could cause problems, and some might cry “judicial overreach.”

An interesting case where the judicial officer facilitated the mediation and was also tasked with running the settlement agreement’s fairness hearing was decided earlier this year in McAdams v. Robinson, 26 F.4th 149 (4th Cir. Feb. 10, 2022)(available at https://bit.ly/3aECNBO).

This case arises from a class action lawsuit against Coppell, Texas, finance company Nationstar Mortgage LLC, alleging that Nationstar was in breach of the state and federal consumer protection laws, failing to timely acknowledge receipt of class members’ loss mitigation applications, respond to the applications, and diligently obtain documents to process them.

The case was litigated over six years. In 2017, a Maryland-based U.S. District Court judge referred the case for “Settlement or other ADR conference” before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan, of Greenbelt, Md. In March 2020, the parties were ordered to conduct mediation. In June 2020, the parties filed a notice of settlement and a joint motion to proceed before the magistrate judge who had mediated the settlement. Among other things agreed upon in the proposed settlement agreement was that Nationstar would pay a $3 million relief fund, consisting of:

  1. Administrative expenses up to $300,000;
  2. Attorneys’ fees;
  3. A service award to the class’s representative; and
  4. Class claims.

Any remainder, the Fourth Circuit opinion noted, would go to a nonprofit that advocates for consumers. In exchange for the settlement relief fund, all claims against Nationstar would be released.

The magistrate granted the preliminary approval of the settlement agreement and scheduled a fairness hearing.

Petitioner McAdams, who had filed suit against Nationstar in a California action, filed an objection to the proposed settlement agreement. She maintained that the class notice was insufficient; the settlement was unfair, unreasonable, and inadequate; the release was unconstitutionally overbroad, and the attorneys’ fee award was improper.

Objection Overruled

The magistrate judge who mediated the case overruled McAdam’s objections and held that the distribution of the notice was sufficient; the settlement terms were fair, reasonable, and adequate; and the release was not too broad. The magistrate also went on to approve the $1.3 million attorney’s fee.

On appeal, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in a unanimous opinion by Circuit Judge Albert Diaz.

The appeals court did not deal in detail with the issue of the magistrate judge having a dual role, as both a mediator and the judge approving the settlement.

Yet petitioner McAdams attacked the magistrate judge’s jurisdiction, holding that she did not consent to have the magistrate judge hear her case. Federal law provides that with the “consent of the parties,” a magistrate judge may conduct “any or all proceedings . . . and order the entry of judgment.” 28 U.S.C. § 636©(1). McAdams argued that the word “parties” includes her as an absent class member.

But the appeals court rejected McAdams’s assertion and held that absent members are not ‘within the contemporary meaning of the term “parties” as used in § 636.

McAdams also argued that this case presents a serious conflict of interest because the magistrate judge both mediated and approved the settlement agreement. The panel noted that it did not deal with this issue because McAdams did not “support that assertion” nor “preserve [it] for appeal.” The opinion states that McAdams did not move for the magistrate judge’s recusal or otherwise object. For those reasons, the Court did not deal with the conflict issue.

The Fourth Circuit has addressed with the issue of objector requirement in 1988 Trust for Allen v. Banner Life Ins. Co., 28 F.4th 513 (4th Cir. 2022) (available at https://bit.ly/3o47kvZ). In the case the objector argued that there was no burden on its part to show that the settlement was unfair, but rather the burden rested on the parties that sought settlement approval. The appeals court rejected this argument and held that the objector must clearly state its case to allow the other parties to fully respond and for the court to evaluate the issues. The court held that it is only when a sufficiently specific objection has been made, that the parties seeking settlement approval have the burden of proof.

The objector, like McAdams, failed to support it arguments.

The McAdams case creates severe implications for the absent class members. It may seem like the courts afford them less protection. Class actions not only affect the rights of the named plaintiffs, but also the rights of the absent class members. The court must play a major role in ensuring that the rights of all class members are recognized and protected.

The McAdams appeals panel held that absent class members are not parties to the action within the meaning of section 636(c), and, therefore, absent class members do not need to consent should the named plaintiff and defendant file a consent.

Removing and/or limiting such a right should be accompanied by some form of protection. This means that McAdam’s conflict-of-interest argument plays little to no role in this case since she, and others in her position, cannot object nor consent as absent class members.

The Magistrate’s Dual Role

Presiding judicial officers have long been performing this dual role of mediating and approving settlements. Some scholars argue that this dual role improves access to justice–in that there is no need to hire a private mediator, thus reducing costs for the parties involved.

Others counter that the dual role creates a conflict of interest. A judicial officer who mediated a case might be biased once the official has to decide on the same matter at a fairness hearing.

One of the biggest and most persistent issues is that a judicial officer determined to settle a case “has enormous power to coerce a settlement.” Patrick E. Longan, “Bureaucratic Justice Meets ADR: The Emerging Role for Magistrates as Mediators,” 73 Neb. L. Rev. (1994) (available at https://bit.ly/3z8fPMQ). The court can instill in the parties a fear of retaliation which would make going to trial unappealing.

Lawyers representing their clients before the judicial officer serving as a mediator might feel compelled to urge clients to accept whatever the judicial mediator is saying to avoid alienating the court, or be on the wrong side of the judicial officer, which would make their future cases before that judicial officer hard.

So while it may seem like a good idea to have judicial officers serve as mediators, it still can create some problems. A judicial officer who mediates a case might have his or her objectivity questioned later because, during mediation, parties will disclose information and the mediator would weigh in on that and might even advise the parties of the cons of going to trial. The judicial officer runs the risk of being committed to one view of the case.  

The risks of judicial officers serving as mediators far outweigh the benefits. In McAdams, the argument of conflict of interest could have been avoided if a different judicial officer had decided on the fairness hearing. The moment the magistrate judge ran the fairness hearing, the conflict arguments advanced above were triggered.

As McAdams demonstrates, the area continues to be one of intrigue both for case management efficiency, and the problems inherent in its use.  See a new article on the topic at Melissa B. Jacoby, “Other Judges’ Cases” NYU Annual Survey of American Law, Vol. 72, 2022 Forthcoming, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper (June 30, 2022) (available at https://bit.ly/3cj2PuY).

For more on McAdams, see Donald L. Swanson, “Judicial Mediator Serving As Deciding Judge In Same Case: An Overreach? (McAdams v. Robinson)” mediatebankry blog (Feb. 22, 2022) (available at https://bit.ly/3aEY3HC).

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The author, a South Africa attorney who received his LLM in dispute resolution from University of Missouri-Columbia Law School in May, is a 2022 CPR Summer intern.

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The EEOC Set to Release Two Reports Comparing Online and In-Person Mediation

By Mylene Chan

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency which enforces federal workplace anti-discrimination laws, will release Tuesday two reports on the transition to video mediation from traditional in-person sessions during the course of the pandemic.

The reports’ striking positive view of online ADR points to continued use, post-pandemic.

The EEOC had conducted about 10,000 mediations annually in the past decade–in-person until mid-March 2022, when it transitioned to online dispute resolution due to the Covid-19 outbreak. See “EEOC Mediation Statistics FY 1999 through FY 2020,” at https://bit.ly/38VirmT.

In September 2020, the EEOC commissioned researcher E. Patrick McDermott, a professor of management and legal studies of Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., with Ruth Obar, a program evaluation scholar based in Manila, Philippines, to conduct an online dispute resolution survey to measure the performance of online mediation against in-person processes.

This survey used the same performance measures employed in previous surveys by the EEOC since 2000 annually to measure participant satisfaction with in-person mediation.

“Our two independent studies of the mediator and participants’ experience in online mediation,  which includes party representatives, leave no doubt that we are seeing the rise of a new and improved model of workplace discrimination mediation,” said McDermott. He added, “Without a playbook, the EEOC mediation program National Coordinator, Stephen Ichniowski,  the District Office ADR Program Managers, and the many program mediators transitioned successfully from in-person to online mediation.  This program’s success and the data should be considered in future dispute resolution design in the courts, administrative agencies, and private models.”

The new releases covering the two studies, “Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Mediators’ Perception of Remote Mediation and Comparisons to In-Person Mediation” and “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Mediation Participants Experience in Online Mediation and Comparison to In-Person Mediation,” are expected to be released here Tuesday morning. [UPDATE: The studies were released Wednesday, June 1, and can be accessed directly here.] They indicate that most of the survey participants prefer online mediation over in-person mediation, and that they believe procedural fairness, distributive justice, and access to justice are greater in online mediation. 

Here are the key findings:

  • 92% of charging parties and 98% of employers would conduct EEOC online mediation again.
  • 86% of charging parties and 94% of employers believe that EEOC’s online mediation procedures are fair.
  • 82% of charging parties and 91% of employers regard the overall online mediation as fair.
  • 60% of charging parties and 72% of employers are satisfied with the outcome of the online mediation, a rate higher than the same measure taken for in-person mediation previously. 
  • Nearly 70% of the participants prefer online mediation to in-person mediation.
  • Online mediation affords significantly greater access to justice because employers are more willing to participate in a mediation done online.
  • Employers report higher satisfaction across procedural and due process measures in online mediation.

The EEOC’s results echo and confirm the views of many practitioners who find Zoom mediation to be a successful model. 

John M. Noble, a Greensburg, Pa., mediator who reports he had 267 2021 mediations, shared his positive experience with Zoom:

Having conducted 564 remote sessions in the first 26 months of this Covid era, the mid-2020 notion that in-person ADR is still “better” than Zoom is now near non-existent. The non-travel benefits alone have proven life-altering: when the session is over, you are home or in the office; no more hotels or trains, planes and automobiles; no weather/dangerous highway issues; plaintiffs are expressly more comfortable in their own homes; defense representatives markedly increase efficiencies–at no added costs–participating from their home or office work-stations, given the routine in-person session down-time.

The participants and shared documents are “closer” to me on screen than in-person and I hear better with the head-set. Remarkably, while five of the eight insisted-upon in-person sessions I reluctantly conducted in 2020-22 did not settle (two of the cases saw no offers!), I have seen record numbers of settlement dollars accepted remotely­-over $450 million and counting. Frankly, my location has become irrelevant as I now Zoom with people from any time zone and I very thankfully no longer travel 12-20 hours a week. Beyond sold: . . . remote ADR is here to stay!

Colin Rule, chief executive officer of Resourceful Internet Solutions Inc., which owns mediate.com, commented,

Zoom has revolutionized the practice of mediation. Many mediators conducted their first online mediation via Zoom during the pandemic, and now they won’t go back.  Video conference mediation has become the new normal, with face-to-face processes the exception–a complete reversal from pre-2019. 

Zoom-based mediation helps parties be at their best; it allows for more flexible mediation processes (with more breaks), and it’s much greener (with fewer car miles and airline flights).  Parties prefer Zoom for mediation because of the cost and convenience, and studies are showing mediation over Zoom is equally as effective as face-to-face mediations.  Zoom is constantly improving their platform, and video and audio quality are certain to get even better over the coming years.  Zoom may be the gateway to more technological innovations for mediation in the near future.

Other mediators see advantages and disadvantages of online mediation and will use it if needed . . . but do not prefer it.  See, e.g., Robert A. Creo, “The Post Pandemic Compromise: Hybrid Mediation!”, 39 Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation 111 (July/August 2021)  (available at https://bit.ly/3wQaxmZ).  

The two EEOC reports confirm that online mediation is widely accepted by mediators and participants. Online mediation, which was initially deemed as a temporary fix, is likely to continue to become mainstream at the EEOC even after the pandemic recedes.

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The author is 2022 Founders’ Fellow of Mediators Beyond Borders International. She is a former CPR intern, and has written for and contributed to this CPR Speaks blog and CPR’s newsletter, Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation.

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Mediating Commercial Disputes: Understanding the Process to Maximize the Benefits

By Mia Levi

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party—a mediator—meets with the disputing parties and actively assists them in reaching a settlement. Mediation is private and confidential, flexible, and more informal than other processes such as arbitration or litigation. It is concluded expeditiously, allowing parties to settle the dispute or narrow their issues at moderate cost. The overwhelming majority of disputes in mediation (70% to 80% of commercial disputes) settle, and because the outcomes are mutually agreed upon, they have high rates of compliance.

Mediation is able to preserve relationships because the emphasis is on the interests of the parties—process flexibility allows the people involved to find the best path to agreement. Parties may adapt the procedure to their own needs and can explore a wide range of remedies that might not have been available to them in court. It’s also more predictable than a trial decided by a judge or jury, avoids a “win or lose” outcome, and allows for an amicable resolution that may preserve the parties’ relationship. The goal is to resolve problems in a principled fashion (or reach an impasse) and move on.

But often, parties may be hesitant to agree to mediation. This can be remedied by understanding which kinds of disputes are suitable for mediation, when to schedule the mediation so that it is most successful, and, finally, how the mediation process itself works.

Is the Dispute Right for Mediation?

It is possible that the dispute at hand is not suitable for mediation. The ADR Suitability Guide, published by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR), outlines three factors parties should consider in deciding the suitability of a case for mediation: (1) the parties’ goals for managing the dispute, (2) the suitability of the dispute for a mediation process, and (3) the potential benefits of mediation in relation to the specific dispute being considered.

First, looking at the parties’ goals, if there is a desire to maintain a working relationship, maintain control over the outcome, limit costs and disruption, and maintain privacy, then mediation may be a preferable tool. Second, for the dispute to be suitable for mediation, there should be no deep desire for vindication or revenge by the parties, no need to attain legal precedent, and no extreme power imbalance. Third, the potential benefits of mediation include allowing the parties to explore mutual needs and interests confidentially, providing an opportunity to be heard, providing a “reality check” for internal decision makers, helping to clarify the issues, and providing the opportunity to have an intermediary help frame proposals and present offers and counteroffers. Parties should weigh all these factors in making the decision to mediate.

Among dispute resolution processes, mediation offers a maximum degree of confidentiality and privacy. Contractual and legal protections provide additional assurances against the use or disclosure of mediation statements or documents. These confidentiality protections contrast sharply with the public nature of the litigation process and its procedures that encourage public disclosure. If parties are looking to attain a ruling that will contribute to legal precedent or require articulation of public policy, mediation likely is not the proper forum.

When Should Parties Mediate?

There is no one right time to conduct a mediation. Including a mediation step (prior to arbitration or litigation) in the proceedings is an easy way to ensure that the parties discuss settlement options. When mediated, many cases are settled or partially settled at the initial stages of the case. Settling even part of the dispute up front can make the arbitration hearings or litigation shorter and less expensive. The opportunities to reduce the costs and wear and tear of court proceedings are greatest before litigation has commenced, but mediation may be a sensible option at any point in the litigation process, even while an appeal from a trial court judgment is pending. Parties not ready for mediation at the outset of the case may be more receptive as it runs its course.

Indeed, the timing of mediation may be rendered somewhat inflexible when parties contract for a sequential, multistep dispute resolution. While tiered dispute resolution clauses may get parties to the mediation table, these provisions may not assist parties in achieving this goal at an ideal time in the life of their dispute. Some parties may find it more beneficial to mediate their dispute after some discovery has been exchanged. Parties should continuously keep an open mind as opportunities for settlement arise throughout the proceedings. It is not uncommon for cases to settle during or even after the hearings. Sometimes, an additional mediation session after some discovery is effective in reaching a settlement.

For those parties contemplating mediation in conjunction with arbitration, the Concurrent Mediation-Arbitration Clauses and Protocol, which CPR introduced in July 2020, allows the parties to agree they will attempt to settle any dispute that is the subject of arbitration by confidential mediation conducted during the pendency of the arbitration. This process was developed to encourage the availability of mediation to parties in a more flexible manner than is provided under standard multistep dispute resolution provisions. This, in turn, creates an opportunity for parties to continue to explore settlement options based on what they learn during the arbitration proceedings and without delaying those proceedings.

What Should the Parties Expect from Mediation?

Parties who have not written mediation into their contract or dispute resolution clause may need to execute a submission agreement—essentially an agreement to submit the dispute to mediation with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider—or they may agree to mediate in an ad hoc process. Notably, an ADR provider will be able to assist the parties in selecting the appropriate mediator for their dispute.

Many ADR institutions provide opportunities for parties to further streamline the mediator-appointment process. For example, streamlined mediator appointment is suitable for disputes where the parties wish the ADR provider to choose a mediator for them. Parties submit information about their dispute and the candidate sought, and the ADR provider will make the selection based on the information provided by the parties and vet the candidate for conflicts purposes before the appointment. This streamlined process lowers administrative costs and allows the parties greater speed in getting a mediator appointed and the process underway.

The process itself will depend on the mediator selected. Mediators will have different styles of mediation. On one side of the spectrum, facilitative mediators will work with parties to find creative solutions that meet the interests and needs of the parties. This will be beneficial for cases where parties wish to continue a personal or business relationship. On the other side, evaluative mediators will offer an opinion regarding the relative strength of each side’s legal arguments and generally will predict the likely outcome if the parties were to bring the case to trial. Mediators may also offer a hybrid style, combining the two.

Conclusion

Understanding the mediation process will help parties gain more advantages from the mediation itself. It is important for parties to realize that while settlement of their dispute might be the most desired outcome, an impasse does not mean that the parties have failed. If parties narrow the issues, understand the opposing side’s point of view, or simply have an opportunity to be heard, it will be successful for the parties in the long run.

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Mia Levi (mlevi@cpradr.org) is the Vice President of Global Development for Dispute Resolution Services of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR).

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This post is © 2022. Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 11, Number 9, April 2022, by the American Bar Association. (Available here.) Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

[END]

#CPRAM22 Highlights: Ethics in the Evolving World of Remote, Hybrid, and In-Person ADR

By Tamia Sutherland

During its March 2-4, 2022, Annual Meeting, CPR–a New York-based conflict resolution think tank, ADR provider, and publisher of this CPR Speaks blog–presented a virtual panel on alternative dispute resolution ethics. The panel discussed ethical guideposts for lawyers, mediators, and arbitrators; challenges and solutions in the new post-pandemic business environment; the rise of the hybrid procedures online and in person; and takeaways for meeting the continuing challenges.

Steven Bierman, a former partner and co-head of litigation at Sidley Austin and founder of Bierman ADR LLC, based in New Canaan, Conn., moderated the panel that included: 

The presentation began with an overview of the main sources of ethical standards, which include the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the ABA/American Arbitration Association/Association for Conflict Resolution Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, and ABA/AAA Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Dispute.

Under the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct, panelist Waldman introduced Model Rules 1.1, and 1.6(a), (c) for consideration. MRPC 1.1–Competence states, “[a] lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”

More specifically, she focused on Comment Eight, maintaining competence, which explains what is necessary to maintain the requisite competence: “. . . a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.  …”

With the rise of virtual proceedings and the rise of cybersecurity issues and data breaches, Comment 8 is more relevant now than ever before. Moreover, it interacts with another pivotal ethical rule, MRPC 1.6(a), which covers confidentiality: “[a] lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b) [which lists exceptions for disclosures such as ‘to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm’].”

This can pose an issue in a virtual environment where accidental screen sharing, screenshots, and unauthorized recordings have become commonplace—especially in light of MRPC 1.6(c), which  reads, “[a] lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”

Under the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, panelist Waldman highlighted Standards IV, V, and VI. Standard IV–Competence, states that “[a] mediator shall mediate only when the mediator has the necessary competence to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the parties … [and] should attend educational programs and related activities to maintain and enhance the mediator’s knowledge and skills related to mediation.”

Standard V–Confidentiality states that “[a] mediator shall maintain the confidentiality of all information obtained by the mediator in mediation, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or required by applicable law.”

Standard VI–Quality of the Process explains that “[a] mediator shall conduct a mediation in accordance with these Standards and in a manner that promotes diligence, timeliness, safety, presence of the appropriate participants, party participation, procedural fairness, party competency and mutual respect among all participants.”

Under the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators, key rules include Canon IV, titled “An arbitrator should conduct the proceedings fairly and diligently,” and Canon VI, titled “An arbitrator should be faithful to the relationship of trust and confidentiality inherent in that office.”

Additionally, Howard University School of Law Prof. Homer La Rue, founder of the Ray Corollary Initiative (a plan for increasing diversity among the ranks of ADR neutrals), and a CPR Board Member, shared the National Academy of Arbitrators Formal Advisory Opinion No. 26 on video hearings, issued on April 1, 2020, in the chat. The advisory opinion states that “in order to provide an ‘adequate hearing’ by way of video, the arbitrator must be familiar with the platform offered to the parties, and must be confident that the parties have such familiarity as well, or have reasonable access to an effective alternative platform. …”

Before identifying three common themes in the different sources of ethical standards, CPR introduced its model rule amplification proposition that requires third-party neutrals to act diligently, efficiently, and promptly, decline to serve in matters in which the lawyer is not competent to serve, maintain the confidentiality of all information acquired, use reasonable efforts to conduct the process with fairness to all parties, and be especially diligent that unrepresented parties have adequate opportunity to be heard. This referenced both the 2021 CPR Annotated Model Procedural Order for Remote Video Arbitration Proceedings, and the 2002 CPR-Georgetown Commission on Ethics and Standards In ADR Model Rule for the Lawyer as Third-Party Neutral.

The three common rules’ themes discussed were competence, confidentiality, and fairness/quality. The panelists discussed the practical application of each of the themes in practice. They emphasized the importance of using pre-hearing meetings to ensure that the technology does not get in the way of the process, and does not to begin operation until all parties have an even playing field considering the socioeconomic digital divide, as well as the need to consider the effects of zoom fatigue on the parties present.

Videos from #CPRAM22 will be posted; watch www.cpradr.org for updates.

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The author, a second-year law student at the Howard University School of Law, in Washington, D.C., is a CPR 2021-22 intern.

[END]

Getting Online Justice, from AALS’s Annual Meeting

By Ellen Waldman

At the January American Association of Law Schools annual meeting, the organization’s Section on Alternative Dispute  Resolution teamed with the Section on Commercial Law and Consumer Law, and the Section on Creditors’ and Debtors’ Rights, to host a panel discussion titled “Online Dispute Resolution in the Post-Pandemic Era.”

The virtual panel featured speakers Alicia  Bannon from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School in New York City; Prof. Jean Sternlight from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez, of Texas’s Southern District in Houston. The moderators were Prof. Christopher Bradley of the University of Kentucky’s J. David Rosenberg College of Law, in Lexington, Ky., and Prof. Amy Schmitz from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, in Columbus, Ohio.

Noting that the pandemic pushed many forms of dispute resolution, including trials, into a virtual format, the panel focused its attention on both the promise and peril of widespread adoption of online dispute resolution. 

On the promise side of the ledger, panelists agreed that the shift to virtual platforms had the potential to increase the ease with which disputants could access dispute resolution proceedings, cutting down on cost, time and inconvenience. 

Judge Lopez, who presides over roughly 3,000 individual and corporate bankruptcies and, as of the conference, had conducted about 20 online mediations since proceedings went virtual in early 2020, was particularly enthusiastic about his court’s use of online evidentiary hearings and mediations. He observed that that stressed debtors juggling multiple jobs and parenting commitments need not take time off from work in order to “go to court.” 

Allowing litigants the option to tune-in from their computers and cell phones conserved scarce time and money, helping debtors, in Lopez’s view, “keep their cars” and “stay in their houses.”

But panelists agreed that the rush to pivot online was not without its perils. Alicia Bannon, co-author of a report on best-practice  principles for remote court proceedings, noted that the balance courts were   being asked to strike was delicate: how best to adhere  to public health guidelines while continuing to serve constituent communities, and to expand efficiencies while preserving  fairness.

Courts, she suggested, should not be going it alone, but should engage with a diverse array of stakeholders, including, as noted in the report, “community advocates, public defenders and prosecutors, civil legal service providers, tenant representatives, survivors of domestic violence, public health experts, disability rights advocates, court employees, and more.”  

The panelists emphasized the traditional courthouse as a place where litigants access legal information and guidance, and suggested that alternative forms of support needed to be built into remote proceedings.  Pro se litigants were a particular source of concern as, in addition to being unfamiliar with the justice system, they may have limited computer literacy and may struggle with accessing and engaging with the required technology.

Recognizing and attending to the digital divide was a consistent theme. For those litigants with counsel and a sophisticated mastery of video-camera technique, online proceedings present obvious benefits.  But, for those without counsel and no easy access to or understanding of computer-assisted communication, the dangers presented are equally obvious. Static reception, dropped calls, an inconsistent or shaky camera, distracting background visuals and ambient noise all influence a  disputant’s ability to communicate, absorb information, and engage with other dispute resolution participants.

And, if one aim of dispute resolution procedures is to foster a disputant’s sense of procedural justice–the experience of having a voice and being heard–technology failures can render that goal  impossible.

Prof. Sternlight in particular emphasized the importance of adopting a context-sensitive approach.  Drawing on her research into the psychological impacts of varied forms of technology with co-author Jennifer Robbennolt, Sternlight suggested that different communication channels affect disputant behavior and experience in important ways. 

For example, certain modes of communication are better suited to the expression and understanding of emotion. We can “read” upset or anger better in face-to-face or even video-conference meetings, as  opposed to text or email exchanges.

Similarly, the perceived anonymity of an Internet-based communique can disinhibit disputants who would otherwise maintain a more polite discourse. Asynchronous technological formats such as email can slow down exchanges, leading to more thoughtful and deliberate decision-making. But the leanness of the medium and lack of interpersonal cues can lead to conflict escalation where rapport or goodwill in the relationship is lacking. 

At an earlier moment in dispute resolution’s development, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Emeritus Prof. Stephen Goldberg and the late Frank Sander of Harvard Law School advocated for a form of triage where policymakers considered both a dispute’s characteristics and the particular attributes of litigation, arbitration, and mediation, and “matched the forum to the  fuss.” Stephen B. Goldberg & Frank E.A. Sander, “Fitting the forum to the fuss: Factors to consider when selecting an ADR procedure,” 12 Alternatives 48 (April 1994) (available at https://bit.ly/3sAj8sT).  

In today’s environment, panelists urged that we similarly match our technologies to the “fusses” that face us.  When determining whether a dispute should be handled in-person, by phone, via video-conference or through an Internet chat, decision-makers must consider their goals for the process, the characteristics of the disputants, and the nature of the dispute or particular task at hand. See Jean R. Sternlight & Jennifer K. Robbennolt, “High-Tech Dispute Resolution: Lessons from Psychology for a Post-Covid-19 Era,” DePaul Law Review (forthcoming) (Sept. 9, 2021) (available at https://bit.ly/3HPjqBx).

All the speakers acknowledged that online dispute resolution proceedings pose new, previously unknown questions. Judge Lopez said that he has been spending a great deal of time thinking through the confidentiality issues that arise when litigants screen-share sensitive financial information that can be easily photographed and distributed.

He also noted that judges had to ensure that there was no “home court” advantage, and that litigants appearing in person receive no special attention compared to those appearing virtually.  Panelist Alicia  Bannon called attention to a study conducted in an immigration court that revealed detainees appearing virtually in immigration proceedings were more likely to be deported than those facing the judge in person.  Appearing by video alone, however, apparently was not the determinative factor. Rather, those detainees who accessed court via video-conference also accessed legal services at lower rates than their “in-person” counterparts and seemed generally less engaged with the judicial process. In this way, the perception that online proceedings may provide a lessor form of justice becomes a self-fulfilling reality.

The discussion ended on a final point that resonated with the audience of educators. Courts need to train attorneys to be proficient with new online technologies and provide resources for disputants so that they can competently participate in virtual proceedings.

Similarly law schools need to emphasize technological competence as they work to prepare lawyers, mediators, arbitrators and other dispute resolution for our brave, new, online world.

* * *

The author is Vice President, Advocacy & Educational Outreach at CPR.  Her bio on CPR’s website can be found here.

[END]

Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ADR Work

By Tamia Sutherland and Russ Bleemer

President Biden’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is well acquainted with conflict resolution’s role in legal practice from her law firm days.

The 51-year-old was elevated just last June to the appeals court by Biden, but has been on the bench since 2013, serving as a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. She would be the first black woman Supreme Court justice if she is confirmed.

While her ADR-centric cases on the bench were few, Jackson–who clerked in 1999-2000 for Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom she would replace, though she wasn’t at the Court for the justice’s seminal arbitration cases–has significant commercial conflict resolution work in her CV.

Most notably, while of counsel in the Washington office of Morrison & Foerster, Jackson did extensive work on the seminal case of Hall Street Associates LLC v. Mattel Inc., 552 U.S. 576 (2008) (available at http://bit.ly/38ELtSU), successfully preserving respondent Mattel’s arbitration award (pending additional court review) and standing for the proposition that the parties cannot expand the scope of review for an award because it is contrary to the Federal Arbitration Act’s mission.

Jackson’s MoFo litigation department work, on both the civil and criminal sides, was preceded by two years as an associate at one of the nation’s highest-profile commercial conflict resolution practices with mediator Kenneth Feinberg.  Jackson was an associate in Feinberg’s Washington firm, then known as the Feinberg Group, in 2002-2003, in the midst of Feinberg’s best-known case, when he served as special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. Congress established the fund to aid victims and survivors of the 9/11 attacks; the fund used mediation-style processes to reach out to potential claimants, and evaluated applications, determined appropriate compensation, and disseminated awards.

Judge Jackson described her work at the firm in her Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees ahead of a hearing on her nomination last April:

While at the Feinberg Group, I assisted in the negotiated (non-litigation) resolution of mass tort claims. I attended arbitration proceedings and advised client corporations regarding trust payment structures for
resolving mass-tort liability, such as asbestos claims.

She noted later in her disclosure, “my typical clients were large corporations facing mass tort liability. I specialized in mediation and arbitration procedures and in the evaluation of trust structures for the settlement of current and potential (future) tort claims.” She noted that she did not appear in court while working at the firm.

“I recall quite well the superlative legal skills of Judge Jackson while a member of the Feinberg Group Law Firm,” notes Ken Feinberg in an email. He continues:

Ketanji was involved in a series of matters relating to ADR: asbestos mediation, Dow-Corning breast implants mediations and some work on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Quite apart from her obvious legal skills, she proved to be a creative lawyer looking for paths to resolve complex mass tort litigation outside of the conventional legal system. She quickly recognized that mediation, arbitration and negotiation were cost effective, efficient and an abbreviated way to “get to yes.”

Feinberg concludes, “It was clear to me some 20 years ago that she was destined for greatness.”

* * *

Jackson was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court by the Senate 53-44 on June 14. In a statement this morning, the White House noted that the president “sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law,” but also noted, in anticipation of a close confirmation vote, that “Judge Jackson has been confirmed by the Senate with votes from Republicans as well as Democrats three times.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D., N.Y., told reporters Friday afternoon he will seek “a prompt hearing” by the Senate Judiciary Committee, to be followed quickly by Senate confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court seat.

* * *

Judge Jackson further detailed her ADR work in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. She listed on her questionnaire the sole arbitration case for which she wrote an opinion, CEF Energia B.V. v. Italian Republic, No. 19-cv-3443 (KBJ) (D.D.C. Jul. 23, 2020).  In the case, Jackson granted Italy’s request to decline to confirm arbitration awards.  The two awards in favor of four energy companies against the Italian government were stayed in a Sweden court pending Italy’s challenge to the award, and the companies sought enforcement before Judge Jackson.

Jackson conducted an analysis of the power to stay proceedings in the United States while a foreign arbitral matter is continuing under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, best known as the New York Convention. 

Noting “the ongoing set-aside proceedings that are taking place in Sweden (the primary jurisdiction of the parties’ arbitrations) and the significant interests in judicial economy and international comity that weigh in favor of staying this case,” Jackson stayed the confirmation decision pending the outcome in Sweden.

She wrote that a federal district court “must recognize and enforce a foreign arbitral award ‘unless it finds one of the grounds for refusal or deferral of recognition or enforcement of the award specified in the said Convention.’” 9 U.S.C. § 207. Furthermore, Jackson found that “a court ‘may refuse to enforce the award only on the grounds explicitly set forth in Article V of the Convention.’”

The applicable grounds for refusal Jackson highlighted from Article V of the New York Convention, were that the agreement is not valid if (1) “award …has been set aside or suspended by a competent authority of the country in which … that award was made[,]” or (2) recognition or enforcement… would be contrary to the public policy of that country. New York Convention Art. V(1)(e), Art. V(2)(b).

But Judge Jackson’s holding to stay the confirmation was supported by her findings that the interest of the judicial economy, and the test in Europcar Italia S.P.A. v. Maiellano Tours, 156 F.3d 310 (2d Cir. 1998), which she wrote weighed in favor of staying the case. Quoting Naegele v. Albers, 355 F. Supp.2d 129, 141 (D.D.C. 2005), Jackson stated that  “[l]itigating essentially the same issues in two separate forums is not in the interest of judicial economy or in the parties’ best interests.”

In concluding her point that the interest of the judicial economy weighed in favor of staying the case, she acknowledged the length of time that had elapsed and wrote:

This Court fully understands that Petitioners have been pursuing recompense from Italy since 2015 and that the resolution in the [Sweden] Court may take one to two more years. . . . But it is not at all clear that proceeding with the instant litigation will necessarily lead to a faster resolution of the complex issues that must be determined prior to enforcing the awards. …

Judge Jackson carefully analyzed each of the six Europcar factors in deciding whether to stay an action under Article VI of the New York Convention in relation to the CEF Energia B.V. facts, concluding that the Europcar factors weighed in favor of staying the case.

She also noted that the European litigation over the awards stemmed from the controversial European Court decision in Slovak Republic v. Achmea B.V., Case C-284/16 (2018) (available at https://bit.ly/2Kf8OmM), in which the court found that “intra-[European Union] treaty arbitration provisions are invalid to the extent that they prohibit judicial review of EU law by EU courts.” Achmea concerned cases under the Energy Charter Treaty—the treaty under which the CEF Energia B.V. arbitrations were conducted.

* * *

In addition to CEF Energia, B.V. v. Italian Republic, Judge Jackson had eight other arbitration-focused cases on her docket covering a range of arbitration issues. In Metropolitan Municipality of Lima v. Rutas De Lima S.A.C. Jackson presided over an issue regarding Federal Arbitration Act Section 10, where the city of Lima, Peru, petitioned and moved for an order vacating an arbitral award that was rendered in favor of the respondent, a contractor. The matter was reassigned to Judge Florence Y. Pan before Jackson could rule on the merits.  

The other cases mostly involved confirmation proceedings.

* * *

Here is how Judge Jackson described her work on Hall Street Associates from her Senate Judiciary questionnaire:

From 2007 to 2008, I was part of a litigation team that represented respondent Mattel in a Supreme Court case involving the section of the Federal Arbitration Act that grants expedited judicial review to confirm, vacate, or modify an arbitration award. I was responsible for reviewing the factual record related to the subject matter of the underlying arbitration, and I drafted parts of both the primary brief for respondent and two supplemental briefs on specified issues the Supreme Court ordered. I also assisted in the preparation of oral argument counsel. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with Mattel’s argument that the Act’s grounds for vacatur and modification of arbitration awards are exclusive for parties seeking expedited review under the FAA, but remanded the case for a determination regarding whether the parties did, in fact, intend for the arbitration proceeding at issue to be governed by the FAA.

She listed the case as one the 10 most significant litigated matters she has worked on in her career on the Senate Judiciary questionnaire.

The case is often cited for limiting the ability of parties to contract for review of their arbitration awards, though it does not apply to arbitration awards written solely under state laws, where, at least theoretically, parties could contract for expanded review under some circumstances.

Hall Street Associates also left alive the judicial standard of “manifest disregard” of the law for overturning awards under FAA Section 10, which commentators have urged needs clarification.  See, e.g., Stuart M. Boyarsky, “The Uncertain Status of the Manifest Disregard Standard One Decade after Hall Street,” 123 Dick. L. Rev. 167 (2018) (available at https://bit.ly/3slmLTk), and Michael H. LeRoy, “Are Arbitrators Above the Law? The ‘Manifest Disregard of the Law’ Standard,” 52 B.C. L.Rev. 137 (2011) (available at https://bit.ly/3ImK05i).  

The 116-page Senate Judiciary Questionnaire prepared by Judge Jackson containing descriptions of her professional work and education history can be found at https://bit.ly/35vbFSJ.

* * *

Sutherland, a second-year law student at the Howard University School of Law, in Washington, D.C., is a CPR 2021-22 intern. Bleemer edits Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation for CPR.

[END]

CPR International Conference Highlights: ‘Effects on Cross-Border Disputes After the Singapore Convention’

By Bryanna Rainwater

According to the Singapore Convention on Mediation’s website, the Convention is a “multilateral treaty which offers a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement and invocation of international agreements resulting from mediation.”

The speakers at the Oct. 6 CPR International Conference kickoff panel, “Effects on Cross-Border Disputes After the Singapore Convention” gave more context to the current legal landscape after the Convention has come into force.

The Convention was passed by resolution by the U.N.’s General Assembly in 2018, and signed into effect in August 2019. It has been hailed as a huge boost for mediation because it provides support for the effectiveness of the agreements the process produces.

The panel’s moderator was Javier Fernández-Samaniego, managing director of Samaniego Law with offices in Madrid and Miami. The speakers included: Sara Koleilat-Aranjo, a partner at Al Tamimi & Co., in Dubai; Michael Mcilwrath, founder and CEO of MDisputes, an ADR consulting firm in Florence, Italy, and a former vice president of litigation at Baker Hughes Co.; and Jan O’Neill, a professional support lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills in London.

Koleilat-Aranjo said that mediation has “established itself as a viable, typically cost-effective, non-contentious, means to resolve disputes.” She noted that “up until the advent of the Singapore Convention, there wasn’t really . . . a legal instrument, at an international scale which sort of provided a passport . . . of enforcement of mediated settlement agreements.”

Koleilat-Aranjo discussed differences between the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958), best known as the New York Convention, and the Singapore Convention. She noted that the Singapore Convention dispenses with reciprocity—the New York Convention only provides enforcement of an arbitration award that has been made in a jurisdiction that also has adopted the treaty–and that “the Singapore Convention adopts a transcendental approach, meaning . . . unlike the New York Convention, there isn’t really typically a place of mediation that is defined” like how the earlier treaty addresses the seat of arbitration.

Koleilat-Aranjo referred to what she calls “a certificate of origin,” which is when the parties must prove that settlement resulting from mediation occurred in order to enforce the award. She noted that this presents the novel issue of how to prove that a mediation award was given, particular outside of an “institutional framework,” so that it can be enforced via the Convention.

There are currently 54 Convention signatories, and eight states that have ratified it–seven at the date of the discussion, and one added since the CPR International Conference.  

Koleilat-Aranjo noted that two of the nations that have already ratified the treaty, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are in the Middle East.  She said that this reaffirmed the popularity of mediation in those countries, and that this is not surprising considering the cultural and religious influences and attitudes toward the process. She said that in Arabic, the mediator is called the “agent of peace,” and that mediation has been used in Arab nations for many types of different dispute settlements.

The panel discussed the reservations carve-out in Article 8 of the Convention, which provides that, when adopted by a ratifying state, “the Convention would not be applicable to settlement agreements to which its government or other public entities are a party.”

Saudi Arabia, Koleilat-Aranjo noted, has carved out a reservation per its Royal Decree 96 (April 9, 2020), which mirrors the convention carve out:  It does not allow mediation to apply to the government, government officials, governmental agencies, or any person acting on behalf of those agencies.  She explained that the Saudi economy is tied in with the government, so this is broad reservation, with many international transactions tying private overseas parties to government actors.

Mike Mcilwrath gave his perspective on why the Convention has not yet been ratified by European Union nations. He said that the EU was “hostile to the convention during the drafting stage. They did not support it.” He added that this is likely because of the “coordinating effort” of the EU as a unified front, making it more difficult for individual states to sign on separately.

Mcilwrath noted that the EU chose to go to court over concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid-19  vaccine, rather than mandating mediation, which is a sign of the EU’s trend of choosing not to mediate.

HSF’s Jan O’Neill had a differing view, and–echoing Mcilwrath’s description of Italy likely supporting the Convention on its own but for the current EU hesitancy–noted that the U.K. also “has been left to its own devices” since Brexit. She added that “the U.K. is of course a very mediation friendly jurisdiction, [with a] very long-standing sophisticated mediation infrastructure.”

As a result, she said that she believes that the U.K. will sign the Convention eventually, noting that “there is a sense on the ground . . . it feels like it will happen. They’re certainly not sensing any hostility.”

She said she that the U.K. is familiar with mediation and ADR, but that priorities are stuck on the most pressing issues–the pandemic and the Brexit economy.

* * *

CPR has posted a video of the full panel discussion.  You can find it here after logging into the CPR website. Videos from the other September CPR International Conference panels can be found here.

* * *

Panel moderator Javier Fernández-Samaniego has prepared an article analyzing the Singapore Convention developments and expanding on the panel discussion for CPR’s monthly newsletter, Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation. His article is scheduled to appear in the December issue.

* * *

The author, a second-year student at Brooklyn Law School, is a 2021 CPR Fall Intern.

[END]

CPR Releases Update to Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol

The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), working with a diverse task force of leaders in employment law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), has launched an updated version of its Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol (the “Protocol”). The Task Force included leading counsel from the plaintiff’s bar, in-house employment counsel, corporate defense attorneys and neutrals (arbitrators and mediators).

The original Protocol was launched in November 2019.  It was reviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in November 2020, in McGrath v. DoorDash, Inc., No. 19-cv-05279 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 5, 2020), who found that “the terms of the Mass-Claims Protocol appear fair.”  Working together over the past 10 months, the Task Force sought to make improvements and further enhance the Protocol. 

An initial set of revisions by the Task Force was released in April 2021, and incorporated CPR’s then newly-launched Administered Employment Arbitration Rules as well as other clarifying changes. See CPR Speaks, April 14, 2021.  Since then, the Task Force has continued to work together to develop the current version of the Protocol, which includes a novel approach to selecting neutrals that will enhance both efficiency and diversity.  The updated version also provides greater detail in describing the mediation process and other procedures.

The procedure outlined in the Protocol applies where it has been incorporated into an agreement between the parties, either before or after a dispute arises, and where there are 30 or more similar cases filed with CPR against one company.

The procedure requires fast track arbitration of randomly selected test cases while proceedings in the other cases are paused. The awards from those cases are anonymized and provided to a mediator to work with the parties and their counsel in trying to identify a global framework for resolving the remaining cases.  If the mediation is successful, each person who brought an arbitration will be presented with an opportunity to settle their case according to the global framework or to proceed with their arbitration. If the mediation fails to identify a global framework, then any of the parties may opt out of the arbitration process and go to court.

Distinguishing features of the Protocol include:

  • Requiring within the Protocol itself that certain due process protections be afforded to employees or others who file cases.
  • A novel fee structure that does not require the company to pay all filing fees up front but instead collects an upfront initiation fee followed by fees paid as each case is addressed.
  • Consistent with CPR’s Diversity Commitment, nominating a diverse pool of arbitrators from which the parties will choose the arbitrators who ultimately will resolve their cases.
  • Innovative mechanisms to encourage all parties to reach a faster resolution of their cases, providing parties with the opportunity and incentives to reach a global framework for resolving all of their cases before proceeding with more arbitrations.

In keeping with its commitment to the parties, CPR sets forth the procedures in detail so that the parties may understand what is expected of them and are provided a practical pathway toward resolution. CPR is also willing to work with the parties on agreed-upon variations to these procedures.

“It has been a privilege to work with and be guided by the experiences and perspectives of this Task Force,” noted Allen Waxman, President & CEO of CPR, adding, “With the benefit of the members’ input, the Protocol offers an innovative procedure for employers and their employees or contractors to resolve their disputes when many arise at once – providing the parties with more options toward finding a resolution.”

Jahan Sagafi, partner of Outten & Golden, Task Force Co-Chair, and a lawyer who frequently represents workers in employment disputes, stated that “while I am very concerned about Supreme Court precedent allowing employers to force workers to submit to individual arbitration, given those realities, CPR’s Protocol provides a fair process to resolve those claims efficiently.  CPR should be commended for considering a variety of perspectives from the Task Force in completing the Protocol.”

“CPR’s Protocol represents a valuable contribution toward the resolution of many similar employment claims,” commented Task Force Co-Chair Aaron Warshaw, a partner in Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a law firm that represents management and companies in labor disputes, “The Protocol is an important option for companies putting in place arbitration programs and one that should be seriously considered.”

“CPR has consistently been a leader in offering innovative ways to resolve disputes,” observed the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis, Task Force member, arbitrator and a retired judge on the U.S. District Court and Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adding, “The Protocol is another such offering for the complex challenges posed by the filing of a mass of cases. Its procedures reflect careful considerations to foster resolution in a fair and efficient fashion. In addition, the Protocol’s commitment to greater diversity in the pool of candidates who will be selected to arbitrate cases is also a meaningful step in addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the field of ADR.”

For more information, see the File a Case or Employment Disputes sections of CPR’s website, or contact Helena Tavares Erickson at herickson@cpradr.org.  Also review Frequently Asked Questions for the Protocol.

ABOUT CPR

Established in 1977, CPR is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the prevention and resolution of conflict to better enable purpose.

The CPR Institute drives a global prevention and dispute resolution culture through the thought leadership of its diverse member companies, leading mediators and arbitrators, law firms, individual practitioners, and academics. It convenes committees to share best practices and develop innovative tools. It connects thought leaders through global, regional, and smaller events. It publishes a monthly journal on related topics and advocates for expanding the capacity for dispute prevention and resolution globally through a variety of initiatives.

CPR Dispute Resolution provides leading edge dispute management services – mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation, dispute review boards and others – as well as training and education. It is uniquely positioned to resolve disputes by leveraging the resources generated by the leaders who participate in the CPR Institute.  It has deep experience in dispute management, a deep bench on its global Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, and deep expertise across a variety of subject areas.

Visit cpradr.org to learn more.

[END]

‘Understanding’ Mediator Gary Friedman on His Adventure in Politics

By Mylene Chan

Earlier this month, Gary Friedman, co-founder of the Center for Understanding in Conflict, of Santa Rosa, Calif., conducted a video breakfast roundtable titled “Inside Out: Confessions of a Mediator in Politics,” hosted by the Association for Conflict Resolution-Greater New York Chapter and the City University of New York Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College.

Friedman’s talk focused on events described in a Politico article, “‘I Got Obama’d’: A California conflict-resolution guru entered politics thinking he could fix it. Instead, it brought a punishing counterattack.” The May 1 article, an excerpt from “High Conflict,” a book by Amanda Ripley published in June by Simon & Schuster (see https://bit.ly/3yT3ee0), can be found at https://politi.co/3iOX9tf.

The excerpt and book recount Friedman’s political term “on his local Community Services District Board of Directors, a five-member council in charge of area roads and water management,” in Muir Beach, Calif., from 2016 to 2021.

Friedman’s brief political life exemplifies that even experienced mediators can be easily pulled into an adversarial mode, away from peace-making. But, according to Friedman, if one refocuses, the Understanding Model of mediation, which Friedman developed with his Center for Understanding in Conflict partner Jack Himmelstein, can help resolve conflicts.

For more than 40 years, Friedman has lived in Muir Beach, which is governed by the five-member board.  Hoping to bring “reinvigorate democracy” in his hometown, according to the book excerpt, Friedman ran for office in 2015 and was elected. 

Unfortunately, during Friedman’s governance as board president, he violated principles of his Understanding Model. Friedman explained in his talk that he was blinded by power and the conflicts that were directly targeted him. As a result, he said his litigator inner-self emerged–he was a trial lawyer before turning to mediation–and he became defensive, combative, and aggressive.

Friedman said he ended up creating more polarization and alienated his community in what he coined his “period of derangement.”

Understanding, according to Friedman, is an underused power that has the potential to help people make better solutions. The loop of understanding, however, does not work if it is disingenuous. Friedman intimated that while governing in his village, he used understanding as lip service so that he could soften others in attempts to convince them that they were wrong. 

Friedman said that his Understanding Model is based on putting the responsibility on the disputants–not the professional–to solve the problem. This means believing in people and giving them power because ultimately it is the disputants who know best about what solutions will work.

But when Friedman acted as the board president, he said he took power from his constituents instead of giving power. Friedman did not believe in the people’s ability to solve problems themselves; Friedman said he felt he knew best.

Mediators practicing the Understanding Model are expected to proceed with the disputants by agreement on how to work together. By contrast, when Friedman was in charge, he explained that he made numerous unilateral decisions that angered his constituents or fellow board members.

For example, he eliminated the tradition of having snacks and socializing time at board meetings.  Even when constituents vehemently objected, he limited each person to three minutes of speaking time and prohibited anyone from raising issues not on the agenda.

Furthermore, in a town of just 250 people, Friedman established 23 subcommittees that were poorly attended. Friedman’s critics complained that he was arrogant, power hungry, and Napoleon-like.

Two years into a five-year term, Friedman was removed as board president. He said about himself, “I felt actually humiliated by my behavior . . . and how I became untethered.”  When Friedman saw how far he had fallen from his own ideals, he said he started to probe internally what was truly important to him and why.  He said his mediator “inner-self”–which depends on self-awareness–re-emerged.

Realizing that what he wanted was to help his neighbors understand each other and to make conflicts useful, Friedman began voting for his opposition intentionally to undo the conflicts he created.  He also blurred the lines between the old board members and his allies on the new board through voting on both sides. Most important, he said, he made efforts to genuinely connect and understand his constituents, one by one.

Before Friedman stepped down from the board, he reconciled with his community and accomplished some political agendas he set out to do initially.  Roads were repaired, the water rate was raised, and the tone of the meetings improved.

At the roundtable, Friedman noted that the Politico book excerpt has gotten a lot of attention. “I’ve been hearing from thousands of people that came out of the woodwork all over the world . . . and I think that my failure as a politician is really meant to encourage all of us, because I not only failed but I survived the failure.”

In the end, Friedman said he repaired the conflicts he created using the Understanding Model.

The Aug. 5 ACR/John Jay breakfast roundtable is available on video at https://bit.ly/3sku9Na. For another view of the event, see John Lande, “More on Gary Friedman’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Politics,” Indisputably.org (Aug. 8) (available at https://bit.ly/3k1EsSC).  

For more on the Understanding Model, see Mylene Chan, “Highlights from the June Session of the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation ‘Mediating Disputes’ Training,” CPR Speaks (June 24) (available at https://bit.ly/37SaTx2).

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, in Malibu, Calif., is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

[END]