Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The disappearing civil jury trial

Image result for disappearing trialsLast Friday's DJ had a column titled Saving The Civil Jury Trial (by Mark Robinson and Bruce Broillet) that started off with some interesting statistics from the National Center for State Courts and the California Judicial Council showing the drop in civil jury trials that we've all heard about forever.
But the numbers are stark: In 1938 20% of federal cases went to trial. In 1962, this had dropped to 5.5%. By 1982 it was 2.6%. In 2002, it was 1.2% -- and civil jury trial rates have now been below 1% since 2005.
For state courts in 45 of the 75 most populous counties, the number of civil trials fell 52% between 1992 and 2005.
In addition to fewer trials, the trials that are going forward have gotten longer. California has the longest civil jury trials in the nation, averaging 8.9 days, while the national average is 3.9 days.

Longer trials presumably mean fewer trials too. None of this bodes well for appellate practice.