25 years ago the federal courts, responding to the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990, made deliberate efforts to expand various ADR programs through experimentation with arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, summary jury trials, and other tools. But few of those efforts have reached people whose cases have become huge challenges throughout the court system at both the federal and state levels: unrepresented litigants. In recent years, however, a variety of initiatives have sprung up in federal courts across the country, all aimed at improving pro se litigants’ access to justice. Through help desks, limited-scope pro bono appointments, and revitalized mediation programs, attorneys and bar associations from New York to Northern California are helping unrepresented defendants understand the laws affecting their cases and discuss options for meaningful resolution. These inexpensive, efficient, imaginative projects should offer us all hope.
This article was submitted by Clarissa A. Finnell, Shultz & Pogue LLP. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, please email Kara Sikorski at firstname.lastname@example.org.