Decline Of Trials In The American Judicial System: Does It Matter?

Decline Of Trials In The American Judicial System: Does It Matter?

Jeffrey Q. Smith of Ally Law member firm Phillips Nizer, LLP states that “trials occur rarely, typically on in the most intractable disputes”, although they used to play a central role in the U.S. legal system. Smith’s article “Trials Continue to Decline in Federal and State Courts. Does it Matter? appears in the periodical Juricature, a publication sent to every federal judge in the U.S. and to all state supreme court justices.

Ally Law decline of trials

In his well-researched article, Smith notes that in 1938 approximately 20 percent of all civil cases were resolved by trial; today, the rate of disposition by trial in civil cases has fallen to less than 2 percent. Among the metrics discussed, Smith notes that the time federal judges spend on the bench has decreased; for instance, in 1980 the mean total hours on the bench per district court judgeship was 790 whereas in 2013 it was 430 – less than 2 hours per day. However, the overall workload in the district courts has continued to increase. This is due to the nature of the work performed by the courts as more cases are decided by motion and as judges spend more time managing existing caseloads.

Smith posits that expansive – read expensive – discovery, especially following the advent of email and other electronic documents, is one issue motivating parties to settle rather than try cases. In addition, the increasing inclusion of contract provisions prohibiting trial or class treatment, and the growth of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, contribute to the decline of trials.

While the continuing disappearance of trials impacts those who actually try cases, does it matter to you and your business? Read the full article for an in-depth understanding of how this phenomenon may affect you, your rights, and your business practices. Contact your Ally Law member law firm to discuss any litigation or dispute resolution questions you may have. For more information about our services in this area, contact us at

Click here to read the complete article by Jeffrey Q. Smith of Ally Law member Phillips Nizer, LLP.




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