Alternative Dispute Resolution and The Rule of Law: Making the Connection

Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution Symposium

October 15, 2010
Hulston Hall

In cooperation with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and the Missouri Center for the Study of Conflict, Law & the Media



Brochure (PDF)

On the face of it, the Rule of Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution seem fundamentally at odds.

The Rule of Law, after all, compels the use of formal rules to decide disputes. ADR, on the other hand, calls for the resolution of disputes through processes that do not depend upon the application of formal rules, such as negotiation and mediation. The two could not seem to be farther apart.

But a closer look suggests that ADR and the Rule of Law are not mutually exclusive. Judicial and administrative dispute resolution programs are common throughout the state and federal courts and governments. Increasingly, too, ADR processes such as town halls, study circles, and citizen juries, are being used to facilitate community dialogue on a wide range of public issues, from neighborhood blight to national health care. Moreover, many of our most established ADR processes – arbitration, mediation, even negotiation – are dependent upon the law to secure such crucial functions as enforcement, confidentiality, and legitimacy.

So, just what is the relationship between the ADR and the Rule of Law? Are they simply incompatible? Can they be mutually supportive? What do we know about this relationship, and what do we need to fine out?

To date, little consideration has been given to such questions. It is time, now, to have that discussion. Domestically, judicial and administrative ADR programs have become institutionalized, but serious questions about their legitimacy remain. Internationally, promotion of the Rule of Law remains a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy, but implementation remains a challenge in the face of traditions of graft, corruption and violence. Can ADR help?

This symposium is a first-ever convening of scholars and practitioners from across the globe to consider this relationship more deeply.