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Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Day is, like everything else these days, shrouded in controversy. The specific controversy surrounding Thanksgiving is related to the relationship between indigenous populations and immigrants from Europe. The specifics about controversies surrounding seemingly everything else in our society are simply too numerous and complex to talk about in a brief blog post.

Even given the fractured state of our nation, it is still the case that we have and can find much for which to be thankful today.   But it’s hard to dwell on the things for which we can be thankful when our country seems to be slipping more and more into what observers of politics around the world have called a “backsliding democracy.”

My dark mood has been triggered by the document released by the White House yesterday declaring that the military troops along our southern border can be authorized to use “lethal” force under some circumstances in their dealings with civilians. The Border Patrol is a heavily armed, well-trained police force that really does not need the Army to protect it. And the fact that the civilians involved are not citizens is, to me, largely irrelevant – the point is that using an army to police a domestic population is one more step in the direction of authoritarian rule that should trouble all of us.

Our current “leader,” with the collusion of too many citizens and politicians, has engaged in the classic hat trick of dictatorship: fostering fear, undermining democratic institutions, and creating a cult of personality.

We should all fear the “caravan” on its way to invade the US. But, of course, now that the mid term elections are over, we don’t mention that anymore. But there are many other things, mostly brown and foreign things, of which we should be afraid. Never mind that you are far more likely to be shot and killed by a white guy with a gun than you ever are to be harmed by an immigrant. Fear of blacks, fear of browns, fear of gays, fear of immigrants, fear of Korea, fear of Iran, fear of Democrats – fear of Canada for heaven’s sake – are part and parcel of our current political climate.

The basic democratic institutions that make this country different from dictatorships are constantly under attack. The judiciary is maligned. Rule of law is threatened. And, of course, there is “fake news” – any news that accurately reports what the “leader” does or says. As an aside, if he doesn’t want it reported, perhaps he shouldn’t do or say it. But vilifying the free press works a lot better with those who are attracted to demigods.

The “leader” once said that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and his base would not desert him. That’s probably true. When caught quoting Mussolini, he was either unaware of the context, or just didn’t care that he was aligning himself with a supporter of what can be justly described as the world’s worst cataclysm. He might be wise to remember how Mussolini finished his days, but no dictator thinks he’s personally headed for a bad end.

I have avoided political posts for a long time, partially because I was in a position that made making political statements problematic, and partially because I assume very few care what I think. But I fear for our country, and even the catharsis of putting that down in writing today makes it a bit easier to see through the fog to some of the things for which we all have to be thankful.

Enjoy your families. Don’t talk politics. Look for positive things to celebrate, and shun the dark.

Happy Thanksgiving.

22
Nov 2018
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ODR and Ethics

The day of discussions, the master class, and the closing keynote at the conference in Rio went well.  There is a huge amount of interest in online dispute resolution in Brazil, and there are a number of applications currently in use.  The judiciary is particularly interested, as evidenced by two government ministers who spoke at the Rio conference.  I was in pretty good company – sort of makes you wonder why they chose me for the closing keynote.  I had several interesting conversations about the Brazilian presidential election that happened just before Julia and I flew into Sao Paulo.  The consensus was that the election was a choice between two evils, and that Brazil is now headed down the same path that the US has been on since Trump was elected.  For a number of reasons I chose not to make the trip to New Zealand, but I assume the existence of ICODR was announced there, and that I’ll be working as one of the founding Board Members starting later this year or early next year.

16
Nov 2018
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Next Up . . . A Day With . . .

 

This will be my first trip to Brazil – I will be honored to share the podium with a group of distinguished lawyers and judges in Sao Paulo for a series of discussions related to online dispute resolution and the justice system.  The “Day With” will be followed by a Master Class that I will teach with Julia and Ana Goncalves, and then I’ll deliver the closing keynote address at a conference in Rio.

21
Oct 2018
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Meeting with Members of the Honourable Societies of the Inner Temple and Middle Temple

On Friday, Oct. 19, I will participate in a discussion/meeting with Members of the Honourable Societies of the Inner Temple and Middle Temple.  The ABA is hosting the event at their offices in DC, and I have been asked to talk about the status of online dispute resolution and the courts in the US.

18
Oct 2018
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Mediation Week – ABA Human Library

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution will host a “human library” event in celebration of Mediation Week 2018.  From 5pm until 7pm, at the ABA offices on Connecticut Avenue, NW, in DC, I will join nine colleagues to discuss our experiences as third parties working in the field of dispute engagement.  The brochure for the event can be found here:  ABA Mediation Week

12
Oct 2018
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Model Standards & Mediator Ethics Comments

At the 2018 conference in Pittsburgh I announced the availability of the comments related to the ACR/ABA/AAA Model Standards for Mediators.  Soon after the conference, the comments will be posted on the ACR web site, but for the moment they can be found via a link to handouts for the ODR Ethics panel in the ACR conference schedule, and here:  STANDARDS WITH COMMENTS.

At the panel on Thursday afternoon, I joined colleagues Colin Rule and Jason Gershowitz to talk about the impact of technology on mediator ethics.  The Power Point handout for my talk can be found here: Hand Out, and notes for my comments can be found here:  Technology and Mediator Ethics Comments.

02
Oct 2018
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TALS Presentation

 

I was privileged to join Larry Bridgesmith, Cat Moon, and Jeff Aresty at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services conference to do a presentation on the state of access to justice for self-represented litigants, and those generally un-served by the legal and dispute resolution systems.  Notes for my presentation can be found here:  TALS Murfreesboro.

30
Aug 2018
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Accord & IEEE-SA

 

 

 

 

I have joined the Accord Project, contributing what I can to discussions about smart contracts and blockchain technology as they apply to access to justice initiatives.

I have also agreed, thanks to an invitation from Zbynek Loebl,  to participate in an IEEE-SA Working Group to discuss basic standards for ODR platforms and providers.

07
Aug 2018
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TN Alliance for Legal Services

Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services Equal Justice University Conference

Thanks to an invitation from Larry Bridgesmith, I’ll be speaking on the topic of Online Dispute Resolution and Self-Represented Litigants at the TALS Equal Justice University Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on August 29, 2018.  My remarks will center on the need to expand the definition of equal justice – I’ll post my notes here after the conference.

02
Aug 2018
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Liverpool ODR Forum

 

 

The Liverpool ODR conference proceeded as planned, with an opening speech by Lord Justice  Briggs and, among other things, panels devoted to smart contracts and blockchain applications to aid in access to justice.  The next edition of the International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution will be devoted to the panel presentations.

06
Jul 2018
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