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Empirical Case Study of Informal Alternative Dispute Resolution

NCJ Number
Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: (1988) Pages: 1-28
R J Bacigal
Date Published
28 pages
This case study uses the Westinghouse uranium case of the 1970's to examine a judicial decisionmaking process involving 4 years of litigation, international discovery proceedings, judicial administrative guidelines, diverse national precepts of economic politics, and the personality and active involvement of the trial judge, Robert R. Merhige, Jr.
The case arose from Westinghouse's 1975 announcement that it would not honor contracts to deliver uranium. The customers filed suit to force Westinghouse to supply the uranium at the contract price or to pay damages of $2 billion. The litigation lasted for more than a decade. Merhige initiated proceedings in the Westinghouse case by ignoring administrative protocol to fly to England and convene international discovery proceedings. He also refused the United States Attorney General's promise of executive immunity to witnesses and granted judicial immunity. He also offered a qualified ruling on the merits of the case to maneuver the parties toward a settlement on damages. His settlement efforts varied from hosting negotiation cocktail parties in his own home to requiring counsel to work on weekends. His unorthodox approach predates modern formalized procedures for alternative dispute resolution, but this case reveals the impact that a judge's personality can have on the settlement of major litigation. Merhige defends his tactics by noting that the parties were satisfied by the settlement agreements. However, whether the public interest was served and whether Merhige's judicial role was appropriate are also relevant issues. 120 footnotes.