College of Law Hosts Mediators from India

From May 27 to June 4, 2010, three senior lawyers from India visited the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law for mediation training hosted by Dean Hiram Chodosh and Professor Jim Holbrook. This training was part of a larger initiative, the Global Mediation Project, launched by Chodosh.  According to Holbrook, the purpose of the Global Mediation Project is to “build a world-wide capacity to resolve legal conflicts through mediation by customizing mediation concepts and skills to the specific needs and traditions of a particular country, collaborating with local mediators to create appropriate mediation training materials, assisting with train-the-trainers education, and helping to promote the use of such customized mediation in the host country to resolve commercial and non-commercial disputes both nationally and internationally.”

Chodosh and Holbrook have been studying comparative mediation and the limits of the basic principle of self-determination in the context of more communitarian social relationships. Chodosh said that they are interested in “disaggregating Western mediation concepts and skills, finding local analogues, and recombining disaggregated and customized concepts and skills into truly localized approaches to mediation that leverage traditional and emerging values, customs, and practices.”

The purpose of this past week-long training was to help develop mediation training materials to be used by these three visitors in their trainings in India.  The Indian lawyers were videotaped portraying the roles of two parties and a mediator in a simulated mediation dealing with an Indian ballet company owner who fired his choreographer for insubordination before the completion of her three-year employment contract.  They also were videotaped explaining the concepts and skills observed in the mediation simulation.  The law school’s information technology experts, Mark Beekhuizen, Aaron Dewald, and Aaron Herd, will edit the video and make it available through the law school’s exciting new “iLaw” technology to provide Web-based training materials for use in India and elsewhere.

This exchange program between Utah and India began with Chodosh’s role in a large national study of the Indian civil justice system, commissioned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ahmadi in the mid-90s.  Recommendations in that study, later published in NYU Journal of International Law & Politics, prompted legislative amendments to the Indian Civil Procedure Code in 1999, implemented in 2002, before Chodosh spent his Fulbright in India in the first half of 2003.  A series of regional workshops and a national conference on mediation held by the Law Commission of India culminated in publication of the book Mediation in India: A Toolkit that was co-authored by Dean Chodosh and Niranjan Bhatt, one of the training participants and president of the Association of Indian Mediators (AIM). Thereafter, in 2007, the Public Affairs Section of the American Center of the U.S. Department of State in Mumbai, India, invited Chodosh and Holbrook to conduct training workshops on negotiation and mediation education for senior faculty members and law students at several law schools in western and southern India. Earlier this year, Chodosh made a presentation in India on the topic of “Mediating the Indian Uniform Civil Code 8-26-09,” which will be published as the second half of a forthcoming book  (co-written by Shimon Shetreet) about the prospect of a uniform civil code in India.

The three trainees who visited the College of Law, Niranjan Bhatt, J.P. Sengh, and Sadhana Ramachandran, are founders and officers of AIM which is based in New Delhi.  Ramachandran, a lawyer with the Supreme Court of India, expressed enthusiasm for “this collaborative venture and all that we can learn while here at the University of Utah, especially through the videorecording of the mediation role-play… so that we can clearly understand the latest concepts and techniques used in this form of negotiation.”

Bhatt commented that, “After nearly 440 years of colonial rule, [of which 334 years was under the British Raj], we are advocating for new reforms in the law in India … through these kinds of training programs.” He said, “We are striving to revive the ancient system of wisdom, prudence, and reason prescribed by Vedic texts … and combining it with modern innovations in the law. India is just beginning to adopt alternative modes of [practicing law] to create harmony among people.”

Sengh, a senior lawyer with the Delhi High Court, added, “We really view this exchange as a long-term relationship between the U.S. and India, particularly with the University of Utah, Dean Chodosh, and Professor Holbrook.”

Holbrook said that this collaboration is “an extraordinary and ground-breaking addition to international conflict resolution training. The collaboration illustrates how it is possible to close a ‘dual capacity-gap’ in international development, about which Dean Chodosh is the acknowledged expert.”

And, the collaboration continues. Our Indian visitors invited Holbrook to India in July to observe and videotape several Indian mediation training programs. In February 2011, a conference on mediation will be held in New Delhi co-sponsored by the Association of Indian Mediators, the Delhi High Court Mediation and Conciliation Centre, and the Institute of Arbitration, Mediation, Legal Education and Development.  Both Chodosh and Holbrook will attend, present, and participate in this conference.