Utah is providing "an inspiring model for the nation" with its new center dedicated to facilitate resolving disputes outside the courtroom, a nationl leader of the American Bar Association boasts.

"This center serves as a proud marker of progress and fills me with excitement for the future of law and justice in our land," Robert MacCrate, immediate past president of the ABA, told those attending the Utah Law and Justice Center dedication Wednesday.The $3.2 million facility, built primarily through the generous contributions of private citizens, foundations, attorneys and judges, provides a place for people to meet to resolve disputes through mediation, arbitration and conciliation. It is located at 645 S. Second West.

MacCrate said the Utah center meets the challenge issued in 1976 by U.S. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger to find the most satisfactory, speediest and least expensive means of resolving conflict for people of all economic classes.

"The American Bar Association has a continuing commitment to facilitating dispute resolution and to the creative and problem-solving role of the law and the lawyer beyond the arena of litigation," said MacCrate.

Heaping praise upon Utahns for their vision and generosity, MacCrate said the justice center presents a vital opportunity for the nation to study alternatives, to examine them in appropriate setting and to see how well they fulfill their purpose.

He warned, however, that less costly resolution of disputes should not lead to "second-class justice for those on the other side of the tracks." The door to the courtroom should be open if a dispute involving basic rights should be settled there.

MacCrate noted that Utah, in its continuing journey to make a reality of "our country's promise of equal access to justice to all," has progressed immensely since the 1850s. At that time in history, there seemed to be a concerted effort to do away with the legal profession, he said. Law mandated that those representing a person either as a prosecutor or defender in a case should not receive payment for their service.

That comment evoked laughter in an audience filled with attorneys and judges.

While the credit for the center, the first of its kind in the nation, belongs with Utahns, the ABA takes pride in serving as a catalyst for stimulating the search for new means of dispute resolution, said MacCrate.

Besides providing a neutral territory for neighbors, corporations, spouses, landlords and tenants to resolve disputes, the building also houses the Utah State Bar and its supportive programs, said Kent Kasting.

Kasting, president of the Utah State Bar, told the audience that the "public and legal system have received a bargain" with the center.

Since it opened its doors a month ago, many organizations and individuals have met in the "dignified justice center environment and settled their disputes."

Over 13 conference rooms can accommodate groups ranging from two to 200 persons.