Many people assume that an inevitable consequence of suing someone – or being sued – is a day in court. After all, a trial by jury in most civil cases is a constitutional right under the Seventh Amendment. However, fewer and fewer civil suits are resulting in jury trials—less than one percent of federal civil cases since 2005, down from 5.5 percent in 1962. The trend continues at the state level, where courts have seen a 50 percent drop in jury and bench trials between 1992 and 2005.
In order to study why the civil jury trial is disappearing, plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Susman, a member of the ACS Board of Advisors and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, has partnered with the New York University School of Law to found the Civil Jury Project. Susman, who provided the initial funding for the project and will serve as its executive director, says, “The Project will examine why jury trials in civil cases are rapidly vanishing, whether trial by jury still serves a useful purpose in our complex society, and if so what – if anything – can be done to reverse the trend.”
The first of its kind in the nation, the project was conceived because of Susman’s longstanding commitment to the jury trial right. In light of the proliferation of binding arbitration clauses and other barriers to the courthouse, Susman has repeatedly expressed concerns about the “privatization of the justice system.” While serving as executive director of the Civil Jury Project, Susman will continue practicing law full time and teaching law students how to try cases inexpensively—a vital skill for trial lawyers, considering todays’ skyrocketing litigation costs.
The Project’s inaugural conference will take place on Friday, September 11 in New York. For more information, visit here.