Edward B. Shils Lecture in Alternative Dispute Resolution
NO DISPUTE: WORLD BANK RESOLVES STAFF CONFLICTS WITHOUT FUSS
Professor Gorman Tells of His Time on Unique Law Tribunal
If you want to know how to resolve workplace disputes without rancor,
look to the World Bank. So said Robert Gorman, a member of the Bank’s
Administrative Law Tribunal.
Last December, Gorman, Kenneth Gemmill Professor
of Law Emeritus at Penn, offered a fascinating glimpse
into the judicial workings of one of the world’s largest
sources of economic assistance to developing countries.
Describing the Bank’s unique judicial style, Gorman
said that it sometimes acts like a court, reviewing
lengthy written pleadings, applying legal principles and
precedents, and developing a body of law. At other
times, he said, the World Bank resembles labor
arbitrators, holding few hearings and taking little
discovery so as to expedite decisions on staff complaints.
Robert Gorman, Penn Law
during his talk.
No matter the approach, unanimity rules the day. Gorman
marveled at how the World Bank’s Law Tribunal, whose
members span the globe, consistently manages to overcome
cultural and legal differences to reach unanimous decisions.
Miraculously, every one of its 290 decisions in the last 22
years were unanimous, he said. “All of us have given great
weight to the belief that our judgments have greater force
Gorman and Edward B. Shils, a legendary professor at The Wharton School
and Penn Law graduate in his 70s for whom the lecture is named, have
“All of us have given great weight to
the belief that our judgments have
greater force and clarity, and that the
tribunal will have greater credibility,
if we speak with one voice.”
and clarity, and that the tribunal will have greater
credibility, if we speak with one voice,” Gorman said.
Tracing the tribunal’s evolution, Gorman joked about the
days when its seven judges sat impassive, like members of
the International Court of Justice, uttering not a word to
counsel. To elicit information, members passed questions
to the Tribunal president, who read them aloud. They
literally spoke with one voice. Today, Tribunal judges
emulate the U.S. Supreme Court. They participate and
probe counsel’s arguments, he said.