Law / Courts Negotiation Role-Play:

Baker & Irwin v. Department of Human Services

Bruce Deming
Two-party negotiation between attorneys for a state agency and a gay advocacy group regarding a state policy that led to the removal of two foster children from the home of a gay couple

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SCENARIO:

The Department of Human Services is the state agency charged with, among other things, the selection of foster parents in whose homes children will eventually be placed. The need for foster parents is high and is growing. The DHS interviews Baker and Irwin, a gay couple, finds them to be very qualified, and places two foster children with them. The World publishes and article on the foster placement, and an uproar ensues. DHS announces a new policy which limits social workers’ discretion in approving foster parents and states that homosexuality is a detrimental factor in determining eligibility. The two children are removed from Baker & Irwin’s home and are placed with another family. The attorney from the Lesbian and Gay Advocates and Defenders meets with an attorney from DHS to discuss possible out of court settlements to the lawsuit brought by Baker and Irwin. The parties have competing interests, both with each other and internally. LGAD is anxious to have high publicity, but Baker and Irwin would prefer to be out of the spotlight. DHS has a potential conflict between the interests of the department and those of the governor, who is running for President and wants only positive publicity. Resolution of the situation is possible, but will require that each party address the competing concerns at both levels.

 

MECHANICS:

The exercise is designed to work with one attorney per side. The parties’ instructions require 20-30 minutes to read and analyze. Negotiation takes about 1 hour, and review can run anywhere from 40-90 minutes.

 

TEACHING MATERIALS:

For all parties:

  • General Instructions

 

Role Specific:

  • DHS Attorney
  • LGAD Attorney

 

Teacher’s package (18 pages total):

  • All of the above material
  • Teaching notes

 

MAJOR LESSONS:

  • When the interests of constituents and clients are in competition, negotiators are in a difficult position. This difficulty is compounded when the negotiator’s own values or interests in an issue are strong. Participants can discuss how these multiple interests affected their approaches to the negotiation and eventual settlement.
  • Different perceptions and different interests may lead to different conclusions about the desirability of negotiated settlements over litigation. Participants can explore the potential impacts of each method on the interests of their parties, and can discuss how to balance these interests.
  • Negotiators who must present settlements to the public may feel different levels of flexibility than those who negotiate in public. Participants can discuss how the impending press conference altered their behavior during the negotiation and how it impacted the final drafting of a settlement.

 

PROCESS THEMES:

Difference Issues; Fairness; Interests; Legitimacy; Options, generating; Power imbalance

 

Baker & Irwin v. Department of Human Services Attributes

Time required:
1-2 hours
Number of participants:
2
Teams involved:
No
Agent present:
Lawyer
Neutral third party present:
None
Scoreable:
No
Teaching notes available:
Yes
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You are then permitted to view the document on your computer and either print the number of copies you purchased, or forward the electronic file as many times as the number of copies you purchased. You will only receive a link to one electronic file per document. So, if you order 25 soft copies, you may either forward copies of the link to 25 people via e-mail, or print (and/or photocopy) 25 hard copies of the document.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.