The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution

Building Collaboration

History

The Texas legal community took notice of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes in the late 1980’s. Recognizing the growing interest of both lawyers and judges, the State Bar established a Standing Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution, whose primary directive was to encourage the use of ADR processes and to educate attorneys and courts throughout Texas. From 1989-1992, Jan Summer chaired this Committee.

In the early 1990’s, the Bar Standing Committee devoted itself to pursuing a more permanent role in state government. Joining forces with other state entities (such as the Governor’s Office, the Office of Lieutenant Governor, the Comptroller’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General, the Texas courts, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and The University of Texas School of Law) the Committee pursued a grant from the Washington-based National Institute for Dispute Resolution (NIDR) to establish the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution in Texas. The decade old NIDR grant program was funded jointly by the Ford, MacArthur, and Hewlett Foundations with the express purpose of establishing state government centers for dispute resolution. Prior NIDR grants were awarded to states including New Jersey, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

Texas received the last of these NIDR grants in late 1991, and became the eleventh state to establish such a center, with Jan Summer serving as Executive Director. The Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution officially opened at The University of Texas School of Law with great celebration in the Spring of 1993. The Center collaborates with all other state ADR centers as an unofficial but resourceful national ADR network.

Prior NIDR grants were awarded to states including New Jersey, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, California, and other state ADR Centers in other states. The Center refers to these states as "State-ADR Centers" and collaborates with these state ADR centers as an unofficial, but resourceful national ADR network.

Since 1993, there have been several additional Fellows Classes. The Fellows Program has been very helpful in adding knowledgeable professionals to our list of possible service providers. The program has also been an effective educational tool acquainting major policy makers with the concept of ADR and it's appropriate uses. ADR practitioners in private practice were also included in the Fellows Program and many have increased or expanded their area of practice to include public policy dispute resolution. The Center Fellows are very special individuals within the Center framework. Many of them continue to be active in Center functions. We often call upon our fellows as an added resource and count on them to promote ADR in their areas. The Center regularly sub-contracts with Fellows to assist in contracts between the Center and state and local governments.

The Center teaches a seminar course in the Law School involving the working of dispute resolution in government public policy making. Students have written papers and Master's thesis on topics related to Center areas of interest. Student papers are retained by the Center in a student research papers file and are included in our library database. The Center also teaches negotiation course.

In 1995, the Center received a special item appropriation from the Texas Legislature for the 1996-97 biennium years in order to expand its staff. The special item appropriation was renewed in 1997 and 1999, and increased in 2001. It is hoped that continued public funding will be approved by the Legislature each biennium. Currently, the Center staff consists of an executive director, deputy director, two program managers, administrative associate, and administrative assistant. Each semester, the Center employs graduate student interns from the Law School and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Corporate gifts provide marginal additional funding, as fundraising is limited by our need to maintain neutrality. The Center accepts corporate and private gifts up to $5000 per year for a maximum period of three years.