From the Cincinnati Business Courier: "Legal battles far less likely to go to trial than during 1980s," by Kathy Robertson--
The prevailing image of litigation involves a judge and jury, yet the number of civil trials in federal courts nationwide has dropped a whopping 60 percent since the early 1980s, a new study shows.
This turnabout comes as just about every other indicator of legal activity has increased. There are more lawyers, who file more cases that take longer and cost more than they used to, but there's been a sharp decline in criminal trials, bankruptcy trials and trials in state courts, too.
"The general reaction, both among lawyers and judges, is surprise when they see the numbers," said Marc Galanter, an author and law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wrote an article about the subject in the November edition of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
Galanter was looking through legal literature when he noticed that the pattern holds true across criminal, civil and bankruptcy court systems.
The number of civil trials in federal courts dropped almost 60 percent between 1982 and 2002. Civil trials in state courts dropped 28 percent over the same time period. Yet the number of plaintiffs, motions, defenses and length of time consumed per case all increased.
One of the main causes for the descrease in trials is said to be the rise in alternative dispute resolution. There's more in the article.