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Unrepresented Party (Pro Se) Arbitrations -- Part I: The Arbitrators' Duty and the Fairness Imperative - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 70, No. 2
Reginald A. Holmes
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Dispute Resolution Journal
Few questions in the ADR space spark as much disagreement and
divergence of opinions among arbitrators, service providers, lawyers,
academics, and policy makers as the proper supervisor and
management of an arbitration in which one or more of the parties is
not represented by legal counsel.
On one side are those who sternly believe that providing any
material assistance to an unrepresented party by an arbitrator is a
violation of the arbitrator’s duty of impartiality. On the other side are
those who just as firmly believe that providing affirmative assistance
to un-represented parties to ensure fairness is a part of the arbitrator’s
Which of these views is correct? Or is there an alternative or
middle view on handling the pro se matter that is more appropriate?
And what are the best approaches for achieving fairness to all sides in
The answers to these questions will be explored over the course of
two articles. In this article (Part 1), the pro se arbitration will be
defined and the unique challenges that pro se proceedings present to
arbitrators will be explored. In addition, we will discuss why meeting
the challenge of the pro se arbitration is essential to protecting the
fairness reputation of ADR (particularly since a great volume of these
proceeding involves employees, consumers, small businesses).
Finally, a perspective, orientation and overview will be provided to
arbitrators regarding how best to manage the
achieve fairness to all.