2023 Dispute Resolution Advancement Award Goes to Scholars Exploring Perceptions of Settlement


Jessica Bregant, Assistant Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, Jennifer K. Robbennolt, Associate Dean for Research, the Alice Curtis Campbell Professor of Law, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, and Verity Winship, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at the University of Illinois, will receive the Hugh L. Carey Center’s 2023 Dispute Resolution Advancement Award for research they report in “Perceptions of Settlement,” an article published in the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.

The $5000 annual award recognizes scholars whose published empirical research furthers the advancement and understanding of the values and skills of dispute resolution. Research considered for the award has broad applicability to the alternate dispute resolution field, or focuses on the values and application of dispute resolution in a specific area. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, and the findings should be published in a nationally respected journal within a specified period. In assessing a candidate, the selection committee also considers:

  • The significance and quality of the research
  • The interdisciplinary and/or innovative nature of the work
  • The extent to which the research has started to impact the field
  • The researcher’s reputation and capacity to continue being an agent of change

In their award-winning work, Professors Bregant, Robbennolt, and Winship start with the premise that most legal disputes in the United States end in settlement, but little is known about how people perceive settlement. Using survey questions and an experimental study, they compare public perceptions of settlement with perceptions of other case outcomes, such as a jury verdict or the filing of a legal case. The fielded data suggest that lay people attribute responsibility to settling defendants. The data also highlight factors that influence people’s inferences about settling defendants, including whether the defendant is an individual or entity.

The findings the three scholars report in “Perceptions of Settlement” coalesce as the first phase of an ongoing project exploring settlement’s central role in the U.S. legal system. For the project’s next phase, Professors Bregant, Robbennolt, and Winship designed and deployed a survey to provide a foundational study of public understandings about settlement, its nature, and its mechanics. The resulting data will shape their future work together, as well as the work of others who are interested in public opinion of settlement.

Considering this year’s Dispute Resolution Advancement Award nominations and submissions, the award selection committee comprised of Elayne E. Greenberg, Assistant Dean for Dispute Resolution Programs, Professor of Legal Practice, and Director of the Carey Center, and St. John’s Law Professors Keith Sharfman and Jeff Sovern recognized “Perceptions of Settlement” as presenting outstanding scholarship in the field.

“In many settlement agreements, settling parties include disclaimers about the culpability of settling defendants and non-disclosure agreements about the particular terms of the settlement to dispel any assumptions about the settling defendant’s guilt,” Professor Greenberg says. “This award-winning research expands our settlement considerations and studies how the lay public perceives the guilt or innocence of plaintiffs and defendants in civil and criminal cases.”

Professors Bregant, Robbennolt, and Winship will accept the Dispute Resolution Advancement Award and present their winning research at a virtual ceremony hosted by St. John’s Law on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.