Pro Se, No Say?: The Impact of Presumptive Mediation in the New York State Court System on Self-Represented Litigants

By Sarah Konnerth

In May 2019, the New York State Unified Court System announced its plan to refer all civil cases to various forms of alternative dispute resolution at the earliest stage of litigation. The presumptive alternative dispute resolution initiative aims to decrease costs associated with litigation, improve case outcomes, and reduce case delays. In the context of mediation, litigants, both represented and self-represented, may be seated across from each other at a table to discuss their disputes with the assistance of a neutral third party. This Note examines mediation and discusses the policy implications of a presumptive mechanism for pro se parties. In evaluating the fundamental issues that pro se litigants face while bargaining with represented adversaries, this Note proposes that the judiciary adopt a six- factor test and expand limited-scope representation to better ensure pro se litigants’ access to justice in this alternative dispute resolution forum.