Averting Gridlock

Strategies for Reducing Civil Delay in the Los Angeles Superior Court

by James S. Kakalik, Molly Selvin, Nicholas M. Pace


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Delay in the disposition of civil cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court is a severe problem. Litigants who want a jury trial must now typically wait five years from the time they file their cases for the trials to begin. Time to disposition is much longer in Los Angeles than in the typical urban court and much longer than the two-year time standard. Court judges and administrators have long recognized the delay problem and have been working hard to find ways to speed the disposition of civil cases. Despite their efforts, the delay problem has persisted and has worsened in recent years. This analysis explored the major possible explanations for the current long times to disposition in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The authors show that the causes of civil delay are multiple and complex, but largely result from three factors: the demand for court services exceeds the supply of judicial officers; the court could manage individual cases and court personnel more effectively; and litigants and their lawyers are, in some instances, delaying the disposition of cases.

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