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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.

Robert Gorman, Penn Law professor emeritus, emphasizes point during his talk.
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.

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 a tête-à-tête.

“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.

 
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