Analyzing Discovery Management Policies

RAND Sheds New Light on the Civil Justice Reform Act Evaluation Data

by James S. Kakalik

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Concerns about civil discovery abuse in the federal courts contributed to the passage of the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) of 1990. Much of the concern, however, has been based on anecdotal evidence. To evaluate the effects of the CJRA, the RAND Institute for Civil Justice was asked to look at implementation of certain case management policies in ten pilot districts. Several of these policies focused on discovery. The research team found that early case management predicted significantly reduced time to disposition, especially if coupled with mandatory trial planning, but early management may increase lawyer work hours. Limiting interrogatories and shortening time to discovery cutoff led to reduced lawyer work hours and thus to lower litigation costs. The outcomes of policy changes are dependent, however, on the kind of case and the judge's enthusiasm for active case management. Since most cases do not entail high discovery costs, policymakers should consider focusing discovery rule changes on management of the types of cases likely to have high discovery costs and on identifying such cases early.

Originally published in: Judges' Journal, v. 37, no. 2, Spring 1998, pp. 22-27.

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