Our Civil Justice System is in Disrepair

12 Dec

By most accounts our civil justice system seems to be in disrepair. Here are some insightful comments from experts who are intimately familiar with the issues being faced by those seeking justice:

There is significant agreement that the civil justice system is beleaguered by problems of cost, delay, and impaired access…We are talking about being able to afford to stay the course and not being forced to fold because the ante is too high…Surveys show a strong consensus that cases are being settled because of cost concerns…At least as to small cases, surveys show a strong consensus that litigation costs are disproportionate to the value of the case…There was also a very strong consensus that delays cost money…There is, thus, growing concern that the court system is pricing itself out of reach of ordinary Americans, that access to justice is not an issue confined to the indigent.

Rebecca Love Kourlis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. From her keynote address, “Civil Justice at a Crossroads” at Pepperdine University School of Law in April of 2010.

We are witnessing a staggering number of individuals trying to navigate an increasingly complex civil justice system without any or adequate legal assistance and feeling increasingly alienated from the system…Regrettably, we do not have adequate access to justice in Canada. We have better access than in many countries, but it is still not what it should be. Among the hardest hit are the middle class.

Middle Income Access to Justice, 2012, book written by:
Michael Trebilcock (Chair in Law and Economics, Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto)
Anthony Duggan, Professor of Law, University of Toronto
Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School


Litigation is expensive, so much so that it is not cost effective to litigate smaller cases. Plaintiffs with smaller cases must either find some way other than litigation to resolve their disputes, or leave them unresolved.

 ABA Section of Litigation – Member Survey on Civil Practice: Detailed Report December 11, 2009

A few years ago, the World Bank conducted a study to determine what accounts for the success and wealth of a nation. As explained by the lead economist in the study, the confidence needed to promote investment comes from “the efficiency of the legal system and how many days it takes to get to trial, how many days it takes to get a decision once you’re at trial, the lack of corruption, the degree of transparency—the whole set of issues that go into” what is called the rule of law.

Mark S. Cady, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, 2012 State of Judiciary report   


  • The number of civil cases pending more than three years is now about 19,000 (at March 31, 2012).
  • The number of civil cases pending in court was 270,839 in 2011.
  • The number of civil cases filed in U.S. District Courts in 2011 was 289,252. That is 427 civil filings per authorized judge.
  • The December 31, 2011 statistics for the median time interval from filing a case until disposition of the case for those that eventually went to trial was 23.6 months.
  • For those cases settled prior to trial that had reached the pretrial stage it was 13.6 months.
  • For those cases that were settled or otherwise ended prior to pre-trial hearings the median time interval was 6.2 months.

Annual Report of the Director: Judicial Business of the United States Courts, 2011

There is an old legal maxim: “Justice delayed is justice denied



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 381 other followers

%d bloggers like this: