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Conflict Escalation Story of the Week: Judges Threaten to Arrest One Another in Scheduling Conflict

We owe this story (excerpt below) to an alert Wall Street Journal Law Blog reader commenting on Judge Ashamed of Strip Club Charges (I guess this qualifies as my sensationalist Judge posting of the year)

MARSHALL, Ark. — A scheduling conflict between two judges needing to use the same Searcy County courtroom Wednesday morning started an argument that escalated to threats of arrest, witnesses said.

Searcy County District Judge Jerry Patterson said he and 20th Circuit Court Judge Rhonda K. Wood were scheduled to have the courtroom in Marshall. Patterson was set to hear small claims lawsuits, while Wood had criminal cases set to be heard.

Witnesses who declined to be identified told the Harrison Daily Times the two judges threatened each other with contempt citations — even arrest and possible jail time — over the scheduling dispute. Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said a state trooper was dispatched to the courthouse over the dispute, but was called off before he arrived because “his services were not needed.”


On the strip clubs I won’t comment except to say (I guess I’m commenting) this is pretty low-level extramarital action — embarassing — but it shouldn’t make headlines. (post on the social benefits of gossip soon)

The titillation of Judges in Strip Clubs aside (yeeccchhhhhh) I’m more interested in how to de-escalate a conflict over office/courtroom space.  Most of my readers are litigators (as were most Judges) and we are trained to escalate conflict until it’s so uncomfortable the other guy cries “uncle.”

So I’m providing a de-escalation technique that’s as useful in negotiating over office space as it is a Middle East peace treaty.


Using this technique, you can begin to de-escalate conflict even if your warring partner is not interested in doing so.  This calls for a great deal of maturity.  I’m thinking the best of my readers here.

  1. make a small, unilateral (one-sided) concession to the other side; and
  2. simultaneously communicate your desire or expectation that this gesture will be matched with an equal response from your opponent.
  3. if s/he does respond positively, make a second concession, and a “peace spiral” is begun.
  4. these concessions should be designed to build trust, but should not be terribly costly (materially or strategically), nor should they suggest weakness.
  5. they should indicate a willingness to transform the conflict to a more cooperative and less adversarial approach.


Excerpt below from the indispensable CRInfo.

Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem in 1977 was one example of GRIT at work. Before his trip, hostility and suspicion between Egypt and Israel was very high, and several wars had already occurred. In 1977, Sadat announced that he wanted to visit Jerusalem to increase trust and to diminish tensions between the two nations. The trip cost him very little, while it greatly improved his image in Israel and with its allies, and led to the historic Camp David Accords a year later.


Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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