Each year the James B. Boskey Competition invites law students across the United States to submit original essays on a current alternative dispute resolution. The purpose of the competition is to create greater interest in the field and students may address any aspect of dispute resolution practice, theory, or research. Past winners have come from Harvard, University of Chicago and Georgetown. In 2019, the winner came from BYU.
Jon McClurg (BYU Law ‘19) won the 2019 James B. Boskey Competition with his paper Wampum, Buffalo, and Taliban: How Embracing Lessons on Violence and Negotiation from the American Indian Wars will help end the War in Afghanistan. The inspiration for Jon’s topic arose from his interest in Native American issues and his work with the U.S. military. In one of his classes, Jon began exploring the idea that past negotiations between Native American tribes and the U.S. government could inform current decision making in Afghanistan. Researching these topics led him to an interesting schism in the world of dispute resolution: should violence be considered a tool that can be used in negotiation or an end to be avoided through negotiation?
McClurg’s paper presents a thoughtful and thorough investigation of this question in relation to the history of the United States with Native American tribes and current day Afghanistan. Jon advocates for government leaders to carefully embrace tribal traditions and customs during negotiations, creating culturally-translatable options. He suggests that sending non-professional negotiators to talks can lead to diverse solutions and favorable outcomes.
Jon attributes his success in tackling this complex issue to BYU Law Professor Benjamin Cook. He said, “Professor Cook was instrumental in giving me the tools to critically examine a complex alternative dispute resolution issue, to approach it from a different perspective. BYU students need to have at least one class from Professor Cook on their law school bucket list.”
Jon is currently working as a JAG officer for the United States Air Force and looks back with appreciation on what he learned preparing his paper for the competition. “It is an area of study that truly changes the way you think in law school,” said Jon, “and one of the areas of law which can profoundly and positively affect the world.”