In a recent article appearing in the Harvard Law Record, the title of the article says it all: “Civil Trials Are Fast Becoming Extinct.” Civil jury trials and bench trials have seen a dramatic decline since 1986. This trend has followed in both state and federal courts and includes criminal cases as well.
The article, written by Frank J. Riccio D.M.D., J.D., wrote that there are no reasons why civil jury trials have become so infrequent. Some say that the Rules of Civil Procedure have encouraged lawyers and clients to engage in pretrial discovery in attempts to settle cases rather than prepare cases for trial. The trend began in the late 1980s when liberal discovery rules went into effect, although the decline began years before. Nothing particular happened that made trying jury cases more expensive than in the past.
The jury trial decline in federal courts coincides with the Supreme Court’s 1986 decisions instructing trial courts to grant summary judgments unless the plaintiff proves the probability of the allegations.