Number of Trials Continue to Decline

Nationwide, the number of matters taken through to trial has been declining steadily. The American Bar Association recently reported that the number of federal cases resolved by trial plunged from 11 percent in 1962 to 1.8 percent in 2002. The number of trials per year also dropped by more than 20 percent over the same period, starting at 5,802, peaking to 12,529 in 1985 and falling to 4,569 in 2002.

The same decline is occurring in the state courts. Based on data gathered from 23 states by the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, VA, case volume is up 218 percent from 1976 to 2002, but jury trials are down by 22 percent. Between 1993 to 2002, civil cases decided by trial dropped from 27,567 to 19,264, which is fewer than one percent of state court cases in 2002. In California, for example, civil cases decided by trial fell from 4,927 in 1993 to 2,688 in 2002, a 54 percent drop.

While the frequency for trials is dropping, the stakes involved in those trials that do take place have never been higher; jury awards have increased dramatically, and cases are more complex, consume more resources and take longer to try. In 1965, only 15% of all civil trials lasted four days or more; by 2001 the figure had risen to 29% of all trials. During the same period, the percentage of trials lasting three days or more rose from 27% to 42% of total trials. On average, a federal civil case filed in 1962 took 15 months to resolve through trial. By 2002, that average had increased to 21 months.

The combination of less frequent, but longer trials and higher jury awards means that fewer attorneys have trial experience. Aitken * Aitken * Cohn prides itself on its extensive trial experience, which allows us to give our clients topnotch representation no matter whether case is headed to trial or to a pre-trial resolution.