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Professor Donna Shestowsky Receives Law School’s Mangano Award

L-R: Professor Elayne E. Greenberg, Professor Donna Shestowsky, and Hon. Guy J. Mangano '55, '83HON
Monday, March 21, 2016

On March 14, 2016, St. John’s Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution presented its 2016 Mangano Dispute Resolution Advancement Award to University of California, Davis Professor Donna Shestowsky, a nationally respected dispute resolution and procedural justice scholar.

The $5000 annual award honors scholars whose published empirical research has furthered the advancement and understanding of the values and skills of dispute resolution. It was established through the generosity of Hon. Guy J. Mangano '55, '83HON, who has dedicated his 40-year career to promoting dispute resolution, first as presiding justice of the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, then as a state legislator, and now as an arbitrator and mediator.

A selection committee, consisting of faculty from the Law School and the University, selected Professor Shestowsky for the groundbreaking empirical research set out in her Iowa Law Review article, “The Psychology of Procedural Preference: How Litigants Evaluate Legal Procedures Ex Ante.” The research is part of a multi-court longitudinal study examining how litigants evaluate procedures for resolving their disputes. The work was funded in large part through competitive grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Bar Association, as well as the University of California, Davis.

The selection committee also recognized the strong credentials that Professor Shestowsky brings to her work. She earned a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. While at Stanford, she taught courses in legal psychology and established a research lab for undergraduates that was devoted to the empirical study of juries and dispute resolution procedures. At UC Davis, Professor Shestowsky teaches Criminal Law, Negotiation Strategy, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and a Seminar in Legal Psychology.

Her study, which included over 400 litigants, was innovative in that it took vital research out of the laboratory and into the field with the aim of offering more real-world applicability. “It was a really exciting project,” Professor Shestowsky shares, “although it presented some logistical challenges, and we had to do a lot of detective work to contact the litigants.” The study found that mediation, judge trial, and negotiation with the litigants and their  attorneys present all tied for the litigants’ favorite procedures.

Professor Shestowsky now looks forward to analyzing data captured during the second part of the study, which involved a phone survey of the litigants after their case closed to determine which dispute resolution procedure they used and what they thought of it. In the third and final part of the study, she will examine how litigants’ perceptions of legal procedures at the start of their case compare with their perceptions after the case ends.

“Professor Shestowsky’s research fills a gap in dispute resolution scholarship by focusing on actual litigants’ dispute resolution preferences,” says Professor Elayne E. Greenberg, assistant dean for dispute resolution programs, professor of legal practice, and director of the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution. “The richness of her research offers important insights for lawyers who want to work effectively with their clients, courts who seek to marshal their scarce resources, and legal educators who are shaping our future lawyers.”

“I feel extremely honored to receive the Mangano Award,” Professor Shestowsky says, adding that she appreciated the opportunity she was given to come to New York with her family and receive the honor in person. “We felt like we were part of the extended St. John’s family.” She also enjoyed meeting the “incredibly insightful, wise, and humble” Judge Mangano. “I’m grateful that he has endowed this award to acknowledge empirical scholarship in the field of ADR,” she says. “Empirical research is hard. And it’s expensive. And it takes a long time. The Mangano Award goes a long way towards encouraging us researchers to continue our efforts.”

Professor Shestowsky ended her visit to St. John’s as the guest of honor at an evening reception at the Manhattan offices of Herrick, Feinstein LLP. Adjunct Professor Scott Mollen ’72 hosted the event, which was attended by St. John’s Law Dispute Resolution Society alumni and friends.