Reviving the Civil Jury Trial: Implementing Short, Summary, and Expedited Trial Programs
26 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2015
Date Written: November 30, 2013
Civil jury trials are disappearing. In all courts, both state and federal, there is a decline in both the percentage of cases that go to trial and the absolute number of trials — all while the number of claims is greater than ever before. The civil jury trial is losing its place in America’s justice system, with unfortunate consequences: “The decline in jury trials has meant fewer cases that have the benefit of citizen input, fewer case precedents, fewer jurors who understand the system, fewer judges and lawyers who can try jury cases — and overall, a smudge on the Constitutional promise of access to civil . . . jury trials.” However, despite the many factors contributing to the decline, there may be a way to invigorate the civil jury trial and restore its vital place in America’s justice system. This Comment proposes the adoption of short, summary, and expedited (SSE) civil jury trial programs in response to the decline of the civil jury trial. These trial programs are a faster and cheaper alternative to the traditional jury trial that still retains many of a traditional trial’s key attributes and benefits. An SSE trial program encourages the use of a jury, shortens the time between initiating the lawsuit and a trial, reduces the overall cost of litigation to all parties, and allows attorneys and judges to gain needed experience — without burdening the already existing civil justice system or violating the constitutional promise of jury trials. Unfortunately, few jurisdictions have implemented these programs, and fewer still have done so in a way that supports the traditional jury trial instead of adding yet another way of avoiding it. Scholarship to date on the topic has yet to provide a complete model of an SSE trial program that has the possibility of reviving the jury trial. This Comment remedies this by proposing a model SSE trial program that incorporates the attributes necessary to help revive the civil jury trial.
Keywords: Civil Jury Trial, Mini-Trial, Summary Trial, Expedited Trial
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