0000329 - 127 Justice Delayed an Overview of the Options to...

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Unformatted text preview: 127 Justice Delayed an Overview of the Options to Speed Up Federal Justice 6 Mattia Landoni is a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy Duke University (mattia.landoni@duke.edu). J USTICE D ELAYED AN O VERVIEW OF THE O PTIONS TO S PEED U P F EDERAL J USTICE Mattia Landoni This paper examines the current situation of delay in the federal district courts and proposes ways to reduce it. District Courts are increasingly overwhelmed by the demand for judicial services. This trend is likely to continue in the absence of future action because none of the underlying causes will cease to exist. This article presents a detailed quantitative analysis of the main de- terminants of judicial services demand, followed by an overview of the options to increase its supply: changing the method to assess the need for judges is worth considering; modifying the procedurethe strategy adopted so farseems to offer little marginal benefit; and finally, introduction of good management practices and digital information management seems to be an innovative and promising approach. 1 I NTRODUCTION One of the chronic problems of the federal justice system of the United States of America is the length of the civil trial. 2 The average duration of a civil case (from the filing to the disposition by the judge, be it a default, a settlement, or a decision) has remained more or less constant from 1940 until today at about one year (see Figure 1). One may be convinced that twelve months is too long based on an examination of the scholarly literature of the last thirty years and by the frequent publication of policy reports on the topic of court delay (ABA 1984, NCSC 1989, RAND 1996 128 Mattia Landoni and 1998); by the fact that, in his farewell address, the former president of the American Bar Association stated that people are terrified of going to court because of the length and expense involved, and stunned by the length of time it takes to serve on a jury (Eugene Thomas, reported in NCSC 1988, 1); and, finally, by the fact that attorney fees range from $150 to $250 per hour (Hadfield 2000, 957), hence a more expedited trial would decrease the total cost. A related issue is the so-called vanishing of the civil trial. Fewer and fewer civil cases end during or after the trial (1.8 percent in 2002, down from 11 percent in 1962). Some legal scholars identify more trials with a more thorough adjudication process (Clark 1981; Heydebrand and Seron 1990; Resnik 2000 and 2004); others argue that, in fact, the phenomenon represents an improvement from the past (Chase 1988; Weinstein 1989; Galanter 2004). 3 There seems to be no dissent, however, on the fact that the civil trial is so long and costly that clients of federal courts are increas- ingly corporations rather than individuals (Hadfield 2000, 962). Yet, there are very few studies (and apparently no recent studies) on the causes of court delay and ways to minimize it. This article is a first attempt to use court delay and ways to minimize it....
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0000329 - 127 Justice Delayed an Overview of the Options to...

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