The Vanishing Jury Trial

On Saturday, July 9, 2011 I was very fortunate to be asked to speak at the  Pound Civil Justice Institute ‘s 2011 Forum for State Appellate Court Judges in New York City.  This year’s program concerned the huge reduction in civil jury trials in our state and federal court and the impact of the reduced number of trials on our citizens, our democracy, our court system, and the Bar.

The program was moderated by Prof. Arthur Miller of NYU, perhaps the most famous law professor in the country and, without a doubt, the nation’s civil procedure guru.

Marc Galanter from the University of Wisconsin School of Law shared this data I thought your would find of interest;

* In federal courts, the rate of civil terminations during or after trial has dropped dramatically, from 12% in 1984 to under 1% in 2010.

* Jury trials make up only .73% of civil terminations in federal courts.  It was 5.29% in 1962.

* In 1991 there were 4,517 civil jury trials in federal court.  In 2010,  there were 2154 such trials, a decrease of 52.3%.

* In 1962, nearly 55% of the civil trials in federal courts were torts cases.  In 2010, the number was only 20.5%.  That means there were only slightly more than 400 tort jury trials in the entire  federal courts in 2010.

*  State court data is harder to obtain by shows the same trends.  The best data available is taken from the 75 most populous counties, and it  indicates that civil trials in state court dropped 51.8% in state court from 1992 to 2005.

*  In these counties, premises liability cases declined 59.7% and products liability cases dropped 65.8%.

*  Medical malpractice trials dropped only 9.50% in these counties, but there were only 1219 such trials in state courts in 2005.

Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?