Decline-of-Civil-Jury-Trials-Cleveland-Inns-of-Court-4.16.19.doc - Timestamp 11:18 AM EDT DECLINE OF CIVIL JURY TRIALS Stephen D Susman Executive

Decline-of-Civil-Jury-Trials-Cleveland-Inns-of-Court-4.16.19.doc

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Timestamp: 4/16/2019 11:18 AM EDT DECLINE OF CIVIL JURY TRIALS Stephen D. Susman, Executive Director Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law Ohio Inns of Court Cleveland, April 16, 2019 I. The CJP at NYU School of Law was established three years ago. It is the only academic center in the nation studying why jury trials are disappearing, whether we should care and if so, what can be done about it. II. Let me start with the first question. I hope I don’t have to convince this audience that all civil trials are becoming rare. [ SLIDE 2] In 1962, the average federal judge tried 10 civil jury and 11 bench trials. Fifty-six years later, in 2018, the average per federal judge was 2 jury and 1 bench trial. [ SLIDE 3] In the Northern District of Ohio last year, the average federal judge tried even fewer cases: .8 jury trials and .5 bench trials. 1
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Timestamp: 4/16/2019 11:18 AM EDT A. One might explain that by noting, correctly, that the number of civil cases filed in federal courts during the last 18 years has only increased 7% and almost all of the increase has been in MDL cases, which now account for over half the federal docket. [ SLIDE 4] But this slide accounts for that and shows that the percentage of cases disposed of by jury or bench trials has likewise plummeted. B. [ SLIDE 5] As for state courts in Ohio, a similar trend exists. C. And the same pattern exists in virtually every state court around the country except those that continue to use a Central Docket. [ OFF] D. In retrospect, we should have called our center the “Civil Trial Project” because no sooner did we begin looking at the statistics, we found that nonjury civil 2
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Timestamp: 4/16/2019 11:18 AM EDT trials were disappearing faster than jury trials. That fact undermines the explanations frequently given for the decline in jury trials—that they are more expensive than, take more time than, produce less reliable results than and require different kinds of advocacy than bench trials. We have to search for other reasons why trials are vanishing. E. I do not mean that the civil trial will go the way of the powdered wig and literally disappear, but rather that it will be like the California condor, still around but rarely seen. Or as a federal judge in Iowa recently said: “preserved, but like King Tut’s mummy.” F. One of the biggest dangers to the civil trial’s survival is that nonlawyers are unaware of its infrequency. A recent study we conducted shows that 80% of the 3
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Timestamp: 4/16/2019 11:18 AM EDT public has no idea that the number of jury trials is even declining. 1. That’s why Congress has recently proposed creating 52 new federal trial judgeships! 2. Why new courthouses are still being built 3. Those who are proposing these things haven’t walked down the halls of a federal courthouse during a weekday recently: you can shoot a cannon and not hit anyone.
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