Fordham Law

First Annual Dispute Resolution Society Symposium Addresses How ADR Can Effectively Address Issues of Social Policy

October 13, 2006

photoFordham's Dispute Resolution Society held their First Annual Symposium in conjunction with the Feerick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution today. The Symposium provided a forum for active discussion about current problems primarily affecting low-income individuals, and others generally disenfranchised from the political and judicial process.

Keynote speaker Kenneth Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, kicked off the morning session by thanking Former Fordham Law School Dean John D. Feerick for a career dedicated to helping the disenfranchised people of New York through social justice initiatives.

photoFeinberg discussed in detail how the principles of ADR and the Victim Compensation Fund helped victims and their families during the post September 11 period. A panel discussion led by moderator Professor Jacqueline Nolan-Haley of Fordham Law School addressed the use of ADR in the wake of tragedy. Maria R. Volpe of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, along with Gene A. Johnson, Jr., and Alan E. Gross of Safe Horizons, further addressed the use of ADR in issues related to September 11. Professor Lela Porter Love, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, addressed the use of ADR in post-Hurricane Katrina efforts. Professor Michal Alberstein, joining the program from Israel's Bar Ilan University, brought an international approach in discussing mediation techniques in addressing collective trauma. The discussion brought to light a number of concerns with the use of ADR as a response to tragedy. In particular, an audience of academics and practitioners was intrigued with the effectiveness of the Victim Compensation Fund, and the likelihood that Congress may seek a similar initiative for the post Hurricane Katrina efforts.

photoThe afternoon panel was led by keynote speaker Michael Cardozo, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, who looked to several specific examples by City government for discussing how ADR can alleviate long-standing social problems. Cardozo advocated that ADR is often effective for solving problems affecting the City of New York, but noted that several cases need to be decided through traditional litigation to set a precedent. Reacting to Cardozo's remarks were Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society, as well as Peter R. Streenland of Sidley Austin LLP. Banks, bringing the interesting perspective of a career in public interest, agreed with Cardozo that ADR is not always effective for solving social policy concerns, if a precedent is necessary for addressing longstanding issues. Streenland, former head of the Office of Dispute Resolution at the U.S. Department of Justice, spoke to the Federal government's use of ADR.

A final panel was led by keynote speaker Jonathon H. Lipman, Chief Administrative Law Judge, who spoke to the use of ADR in the courts. Lipman, who was appointed in 1996, has played a central role in many far-ranging reforms of New York's judiciary and legal profession. In particular, Lipman has infused the use of ADR into New York's judiciary. Panelists addressed how ADR has created innovative solutions for litigants. The Honorable Fern A. Fisher, New York Supreme Court Justice, spoke to several ADR initiatives the courts have seen during her fourteen years in the judiciary - most notably, the use of mediation and arbitration. Professor Beth G. Schwartz of Fordham Law School discussed the realities of how effective ADR can be in the judiciary in light of her work as a certified Mediator for the New York State Community Dispute Resolution Centers, as well as her teachings in Fordham Law's clinical programs. Andrew Scherer, Legal Services of New York, addressed similar concerns which may arise with design and implementation of ADR programs for low-income communities.


Professor John D. Feerick closed out the day, thanking the speakers who joined him in making the First Annual Fordham Dispute Resolution Society Symposium a tremendous success. Heading the newly-opened Feerick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution, Professor Feerick is hopeful that Fordham Law School will engage in a number of initiatives to help the poor and disenfranchised people of New York. Reflecting on this goal, Judge Lipman aptly noted, "we need more John Feericks in this world."