Peacemaking Court

Michigan is going to have a “Peacemaking Court.” Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Timothy Connors has received a grant from the Michigan Supreme Court to establish a Peacemaking Court in Ann Arbor. I’m especially heartened that my colleague Susan Butterwick will be leading this innovative project—she has the right experience and perspective to make it work well.

The court will be modeled on Native American tribal court traditions, which value “four Rs: respect, responsibility, relationship and restoration.” There’s apparently only one other such court in the U.S., in Brooklyn.

While “peacemaking court” sounds like an oxymoron, this concept is a move in the right direction. The adversarial system may be effective in ferreting out truth in some cases, but it can also destroy any possibility of reconciliation and restoration, thus causing a chain-reaction of ongoing conflict. It will be interesting to see how this court brings peace to conflicts in ways that traditional courts cannot.

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