UF Helps Bring ADR to Poland
Since the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Poland has played host to a steady stream of Western lawyers with advice on how to restructure the Polish legal system.
Now legal scholars from the University of Florida are offering a radically different kind of advice: they’re teaching their Polish counterparts how to get cases out of the court system.
UF’s Levin College of Law teamed up with the Warsaw University Faculty of Law on Oct. 7 to host a conference on mediation as an alternative means of settling civil disputes. Faculty of both universities organized the conference in collaboration with Andrez Kalwasj, Poland’s Minister of Justice. The conference, held in Warsaw and attended by about 200 prominent lawyers and judges, was intended to introduce Polish legal professionals to a new civil mediation system to be introduced in Polish courts in December.
“Mediation has been an important part of the American court system for years, where it has worked wonders in reducing the courts’ caseload” said Jon Mills, director of the Center for Governmental Responsibility and one of the organizers of the conference. “In Poland, there is some mediation of criminal issues, but almost none in civil matters – even in family law, where it could be particularly useful.”
The conference featured panel discussions with mediation experts from across Europe as well as the United States. Among the American speakers at the event were Mills; Professor Don Peters, head of the Institute for Dispute Resolution at UF; and UF law alumnus John Upchurch, CEO of the firm Upchurch, Watson, White and Max, which specializes in mediation.
The conference is only the beginning of UF’s commitment to promoting mediation in Poland; Professor Ewa Gmurzynska, director of the UF-affiliated Center for American Law Studies at Warsaw University, has been appointed head of a Ministry of Justice department devoted to establishing a system for alternate dispute resolution. UF faculty say the lawyers and judges at the conference seemed eager for more information on the topic.
“There was a lot of interest in a series of more focused workshops on topics such as the licensing of mediators and the development of a code of ethics,” said Peters. “They were very enthusiastic about alternate means of dispute resolution.”