St. Mary's Law Journal


Royal Furgeson


Civil jury trials in America have been declining at a steady rate for the last thirty years. This is a well-documented trend. If the trend continues, within the foreseeable future, civil jury trials in American may eventually become extinct. Jury trials have been central to justice in America and its states since their inception. Their importance has been stated as bringing accountability to the law and to society. As all persons, even the powerful and wealthy ones, are accountable under the law. Yet, as important as juries and jury trials are to the health of justice in America, the civil docket of juries and jury trials are disappearing. This decline is not limited to federal courts; it also includes state courts. This decline has been described as a syndrome of two conspicuous symptoms: the decline in trials and the surge in private dispute resolution. More specifically stated, is the decline of lay citizens participation and the state in our justice system. Other issues spotted include problems in the trial courts, problems in appellate courts, and problems in the legislature. Problems in trial courts include issues such as trial judges as case managers, cost of litigation, and lawsuit abuse. Problems in appellate courts include the issues of embracing preemption, summary dispositions, and the remedy of mandamus. Lastly, problems in the legislature include the risk of punitive damages, tort reform, and the reliance on arbitration. These issues largely arise due to the rampant growth of the country at large, and the efforts the justice system has made to accommodate that growth. Yet, despite the best efforts of government assumption and judges acting as case managers, the plain fact is litigation and civil jury trials have become exorbitant. And justice cannot be done if only the very wealthy can afford them.


St. Mary's University School of Law