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Context of 'October 1, 1990: Mediation Attempt in PROMIS Dispute Sabotaged by Leak to Washington Post'

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Peter Rodino.Peter Rodino. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]The House of Representatives authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to begin investigating whether grounds exist to impeach President Nixon. The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Peter Rodino (D-MI). (Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum 7/3/2007)

The Justice Department asks an appellate court to consider its dispute with Inslaw over the enhanced PROMIS software for the Appellate Mediation Program. The program, which has been running for about two years, is intended to benefit parties to a dispute by providing a forum which encourages cases to be settled, or at least the resolution or simplification of some of the issues, through an independent and neutral mediator. However, the success of such attempts hinges on their confidentiality, as cases are not to be shared with judges or anyone outside the relevant court. (US Congress 9/10/1992) Despite this, the mediation attempts will fail when news of them is leaked to the Washington Post (see October 1, 1990).

The Washington Post reports that the Justice Department has asked an appeals court to consider its dispute with Inslaw over enhanced PROMIS software for mediation. The request was made several months earlier (see June 28, 1990), but the process requires confidentially, so the leak forces Inslaw to withdraw and ends the mediation attempts. The House Judiciary Committee will comment that the leak was “completely contrary to the standards of the Appellate Program.” The committee will add: “It is difficult to understand the department’s strategy by this action. It may be that the department wanted to maintain the facade of working diligently to settle a sticky contract dispute while working behind the scenes to sabotage it and keep pressure on Inslaw by forcing it to expend additional resources on legal support during the mediation process. If this is the case, the department was successful. But the department also succeeded in maintaining a near-flawless record of seeking delay over resolution and raising the level of suspicion about its motives to a point where the public trust in the untarnished pursuit of justice is subject to grave doubts.” (US Congress 9/10/1992)


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