The Curious Incident of the Falling Win Rate
28 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2017 Last revised: 8 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 7, 2017
For 40 quarters starting in 1985, the plaintiff win rate in adjudicated civil cases in Federal courts fell almost continuously, from 70 percent to 35 percent, where it remained—albeit with increased volatility—for the next 15 years. We explore, and largely reject, several possible explanations for this surprising finding. Although the reason for the falling win rate remains a mystery, we conclude that courts may need to justify decisions not only in individual cases, but at a systemic level.
Keywords: civil procedure, win rate
JEL Classification: K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation