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Further Decline of Jury Trials

jury trial

The Los Angeles Daily Journal, the leading legal newspaper in Southern California has recently reported facts and statistics regarding the continuing decline in jury trials throughout the United States, especially in Federal Court and in the State of California. Federal Court civil trials have steadily declined in the last 80 years. Commencing in 1938, approximately twenty percent of civil cases filed in the Federal Courts proceeded to trial by jury. By 1962, the civil jury trials declined to 5.5 percent; by 1982 to 2.6 percent; by 2002, civil jury trials in Federal Court were down to 1.2 percent of cases actually filed. Currently, less than one percent of civil filings result in jury trials in the Federal Courts.

The statistics for the State of California are similar, and not much better as to the number of civil jury trials that actually take place. What is even more confounding and alarming, is that civil jury trials in the State of California are more lengthy than in any other part of the country. The national average for completion of civil jury trials is 3.6 days. The average in the State of California is an astounding 8.9 days!

As a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), we strive to protect litigants’ rights to trial by jury. The decline in the number of trials, and the alarming length of civil jury trials in the State of California, are of great concern to the protection of the ongoing process. The length of trials cause substantial problems in obtaining jurors, as most are disinterested, and look for reasons not to participate in the trial by jury. In order to maintain an efficient jury system in California, we must reduce the amount of time spent in trial so that jurors will be available on a continuing basis.

Fellow ABOTA members have participated in the Daily Journal article and have suggested that changes be made in order to protect the civil jury system. Time limits need to be enforced upon the lawyers by judges; the parties need to stipulate to certain basic facts, and potentially medical expenses. The idea is to agree upon as much as possible, to reduce not only the number of witnesses, but to reduce the time spent in completing the jury trial. With our technology, we are continuing to advance in the use of video depositions, in lieu of live testimony. We must continue to make changes and advancements in the civil jury trial process in order to protect this valuable right.

The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are skilled litigators, and experienced in handling all types of civil jury trials. Please contact us at your convenience for a free initial consultation regarding all types of civil matters.

Blog written by: Dennis Stout

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