Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Civility and Kindness

Remember all the rules that we grew up with? Well, maybe we grew up with?

Don't talk with your mouth full.
Show up on time.
No elbows on the table.
"Yes, sir" or "No, sir"

Many people would identify the lack of civility and kindness as important aspects of our lives that are missing.

The Smithsonian Magazine highlighted the work of Professor Pier M. Forni of Johns Hopkins in promoting civility. I've not read his book, but I will.

Whether we call the issue civility, kindness, working together, or conflict resolution, all of these cultural issues result in stress and lack of community. As Professor Forni points out, we are social creatures, needing to be in community, and the lack of kindness and civility that we show each other is not only troubling from an ethical, moral, and religious points of view, but also causes great havoc in quantitative measures. Stress leads to decreased productivity at work, increased health problems, and torments the relationships we have with others. The role of conflict in the workplace, and the quantifiable damages conflict causes, is well documented and has been discussed in this blog.

As we end 2008 and look forward to 2009, let's take a moment and resolve to treat each other with kindness and civility. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, we may be the recipient of someone's kindness. Wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A court mediator?

The (out of Ohio) writes about a program involving a "court mediator", someone who appears to be working full-time for the court system (here for six judges in four Ohio counties). The mediator's fee is paid through the court's budget, which is supplemented by a mediation fee charged by the court, according to the article.

What would the process look like if courts had full-time mediators on call, paid for by the court system, to help resolve disputes? Would the number of cases that settle increase or remain the same? Would settlement rates vary, depending upon the location of the mediation? Does it matter if the mediator is already at the courthouse, as opposed to a more-traditional method of mediation at the mediator's office?

Norwegian Copyright ADR

Norway's Consumer Council is recommending that ADR be introduced in copyright litigation so that parties can meaningfully settle cases instead of "being forced into settlement arrangements simply because they could not afford to defend legal action brought by copyright holders."

What an interesting concept--that lawsuits can be so expensive that a party feels forced into settlement simply because it can't afford the fight.

Perhaps an advantage of alternative dispute resolution methods is that it helps to level the playing field, in that the parties do not have the expense of a trial?

My experience is that the most expensive portion of litigation is the pre-trial work: getting the defendant served, discovery, and dispositive motions. After that, the trial preparation is certainly expensive, but I wonder how many people would willingly sit down pre-discovery and try to negotiate a settlement?