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unified court system logoIn light of the court systems’ ADR initiative and imminent implementation of a new “presumptive ADR” program, practitioners should be aware of the impetus behind the drive and how they can prepare for it.

It started with a Press Release in April 2018—“New ADR Initiative Aims to Reduce Case Delays and Enhance Access to Justice” (New York State, Office of Court Administration, April 20, 2018)—that memorialized a plan to revitalize the court system’s commitment to Alternative Dispute Resolution, specifically mediation. The Press Release highlighted that this new plan would promote the goals of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s Excellence Initiative by helping to eliminate case backlogs and enhance the quality of justice. It stressed that although ADR has proven a meaningful, efficient and cost-effective way to resolve disputes in appropriate cases, it continues to be underutilized. Launching the initiative means increasing efforts to expand the use of ADR within the courts.

The Press Release also announced the formation of an Advisory Committee on ADR that included highly esteemed and knowledgeable judges, attorneys, mediators and professors. The committee was assigned to assist and guide in the undertaking by examining the services currently accessible within the court system and to make recommendations for improvement and expansion. Also discussed in this initial Press Release was an existing New York County early mediation pilot program that followed the “presumptive ADR” model. Presumptive ADR entails referring cases, without the need of judicial intervention, to mediation or some other form of ADR as a first step, before the matter can proceed formally in court. Conversely at present, parties are typically referred to ADR services by the judge handling the matter, after some or significant court involvement has occurred.

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