More worries about the shrinking civil jury

This blog, and many other sources, have noted the low percentage of civil (and criminal) trials that go to a jury. A recent news article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal offers a somewhat different take than most have on the issue. In this view, the problem may be the massive paperwork required for many modern civil trials. Quoting the President of the West Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association,

“The trial has been under siege … for a lot of different reasons that have worked together. One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is technology. The huge expanse of technology and information out there has, in a lot of ways, bogged down the ability to prosecute and present the case.”

The article noted,

40 or even 30 years ago, a trial typically would include only a handful of documents — a stack an inch thick would be considered a lot of documents. But today, lawyers are typically dealing with hundreds or thousands of documents for each case, which are likely to include emails and even text messages.

So the theory goes, this pushes attorneys into avoidance mode–hoping to settle the case rather than crawling through a tedious discovery, then dragging all those documents back through a lengthy jury trial.

Remedies discussed in the article include limits on the documents used in trial, accelerating the pace of discovery, and more. Read on to get more ideas from the article, which happily acknowledges the civic import of the civil jury.


About jgastil

John Gastil is Head and Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making.
This entry was posted in Conducting trials, Social/political impact of juries. Bookmark the permalink.

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