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Decrease in numbers of civil jury trials in D.C.

DRI has published an article summarizing a Florida report concerning the decline in jury trials, and the ramifications of that decline.  Based on an analysis of statistics done in 2004, "in 1962, 11.5% of 50,320 civil federal court dispositions were by trial.  In 2002, there were only 1.8% dispositions by trial, out of 258,876."  The negative effects of this decline are at least two-fold: ordinary citizens play less of a role in government, and jury trial experience is harder to come by for lawyers.  A panel of the Florida bar expressed concern that the decline in citizen jury experience could cause a deline in confidence in the court system.

A quick look at the statistics of the D.C. Superior Court confirms this trend.  The D.C. Superior Court' Civil Division reported the following numbers of judgments from jury trials between 1999 and 2010:

Year    Number of civil jury judgments

1999        299

2000        269

2001        228

2002        219

2003        165

2004        164

2005        131

2006        217

2007        214

2008        118

2009        106 

2010        115

There has been a similar decline in Virginia, as has been noted elsewhere.  Numerous federal judges have commented on the trend.

The reasons for this decline include costs and a poor economy of course, but also better and more active management of dockets by the courts.   That development has been mirrored, at least on the defense side, by skillful management of litigation by insurers and business litigants.