Despite the wide acknowledgment that the American civil justice system has room for improvement in both its fairness and its efficiency, there is not really a culture of experimentation and incremental reform. Yet the case for reform is strong.
Around 30 judges, scholars, and other observers of the civil justice system gathered in Santa Monica, California, in November 2021 for the UCLA-RAND Center for Law and Public Policy–sponsored "Rethinking Civil Case Management" conference to discuss how and whether the American civil justice system might develop a stronger culture of experimentation and reform. The focus was on case management — how judges can institute methods and procedures to shape and channel litigation — but more-general issues of civil justice reform regularly surfaced. This publication summarizes the discussions and presents four pieces of scholarship presented during the conference.
The participants brought diverse views to the conference, but there was a palpable consensus that a stronger culture of experimentation and reform was a worthwhile and attainable goal. The key to such efforts, it was generally agreed, is close collaboration between teams of judges and scholars to identify worthy innovations to study, to develop good data sources (that can, preferably, be widely shared), to use methodologies that are in some way experimental rather than just observational, and to "evangelize" results. Strong working relationships between judges and scholars make it more likely that judges will seriously pursue the goals of particular reforms and that scholars will correctly understand and interpret the data they are gathering.
Table of Contents
Panel: Toward a Unified Theory of Case Management
Panel: Experiments in Measuring the Effectiveness of Case Management Techniques
Panel: Litigants Without Representation
Panel: What Outcomes Can We Measure?
Panel: Paths Forward
A Systematic Approach to Principled Civil Case Management
Methods for Assessing Civil Justice Reform: The Case of "Meet and Confer" Requirements for California Demurrers
Summary of More Talk Less Conflict: Evidence from Requiring Informal Discovery Conferences
Report on the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot: Results of Closed-Case Attorney Surveys Fall 2017–Spring 2019