Against Settlement? Owen Fiss, ADR and Australian Discrimination Law
International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, Vol. 10, No. 4, p. 191, 2009
28 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2010 Last revised: 20 Mar 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2010
In his celebrated article, Against Settlement, Owen Fiss objected to settlement for, among other things, securing the peace while not necessarily delivering justice and denying the court the opportunity to interpret the law. Fiss sees settlement as a technique for streamlining court dockets, the civil equivalent of plea bargaining. This paper explores Fiss’s criticisms through the lens of resolving discrimination complaints in Australia. It argues that although it is valuable to offer complainants a system for resolving complaints quickly and informally, especially in a jurisdiction in which complainants are often from marginalised groups, it is also necessary to recognise that this system is limited in how effectively it can develop the law and, by extension, eradicate discrimination. In essence, the system’s operation epitomises Fiss’ opposition to settlement. Modifying the complaint resolution system would improve this situation. The paper concludes by proposing three reforms based on mechanisms used in comparable countries: introducing direct access to the court or tribunal; strengthening ADR by making it voluntary and incorporating a ‘rights-based’ approach; and encouraging the regular publication of specific information about settlements and significant cases.
Keywords: ADR, discrimination, settlement, Australia, conciliation
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