Introduction to Symposium: Perspectives on Dispute Resolution in the Twenty-First Century

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Without doubt, popular rhetoric puts forth the image of an American system of dispute resolution in need of reform and striving for reform. Whether reality accords with rhetoric is, of course, open to question. On the one hand, one can certainly argue that popular perceptions of a “litigation crisis” are overwrought and that as a whole, American dispute resolution is not doing all that badly. Everything is relative. American dispute resolution, like the American legal profession, may not be perfect, but it arguably is doing as well as or better than other American institutions such as the stock market, investment banking houses, Arthur Andersen, the FBI, the CIA, and Congress. I might even go out on a limb and suggest that the nation's system of dispute resolution (both civil and criminal) is doing a lot better than the Florida electoral machinery.

On the proverbial other hand, the American disputing system has certainly been amending itself with frequency and zeal, a pattern that normally reflects an effort to “fix” a system in need of repair. On the “litigation wing” of the system, the past quarter-century has seen five significant packages of amendments revising the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, three of them substantial and controversial. The Federal Rules of Evidence were enacted and the Evidence Advisory Committee buried and then resurrected to permanent status, from which it quickly swung into action, adding and amending federal evidence rules. On the non-litigation wing of the dispute resolution edifice, alternative dispute resolution has, during the past twenty-five years, gone from being an idea to a fad to an institution, so much so that ADR has become a centerpiece of modern legal training and non-litigation dispute professionals prefer to delete the word “alternative” when describing the process.

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3 Nev. L.J. 191 (2003).

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