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NCJ Number: 136392 Find in a Library
Title: Taking Aim at the American Legal System: The Council on Competitiveness Agenda for Legal Reform
Journal: Judicature  Volume:75  Issue:5  Dated:(February-March 1992)  Pages:244-250
Author(s): D R Hensler
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 7
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: While the report of the Council on Competitiveness offers many helpful suggestions to improve the civil justice system, the blame it places on the legal system for America's economic problems is based on shaky evidence and appears to favor corporate defendants over individual plaintiffs.
Abstract: According to the report, the connection between competitiveness and the legal system lies in the high costs the legal system imposes on U.S. businesses. These costs are reflected in the number of lawsuits filed annually in the United States (18 million), the number of U.S. lawyers (1 for every 300 Americans), and direct and indirect costs of litigation ($80 and $300 billion, respectively). Of 50 detailed suggestions to improve the delivery of justice, more than half deal with such familiar themes as case management, discovery abuse, alternative dispute resolution, and Federal court jurisdiction. One area of substantive law, punitive damage rules, receives particular attention in the report. Some traditional targets of reform efforts are also given innovative treatment. For example, the council suggests imposing market incentives on discovery requests beyond judicially mediated limits, with the requester having to pay the opponent's document production costs. Although statistics and research citations are noted throughout the council's report, its empirical basis is shaky. Evidence to support many of the assertions is lacking, and what evidence does exist is at best incomplete and at worst misleading. Four areas of the council's proposals are evaluated in terms of reducing legal costs and increasing access to justice: dispute resolution, regulation of discovery, punitive damage rules, and fee shifting. The council's 50 recommendations are listed. 12 footnotes
Main Term(s): Law reform; Legal system
Index Term(s): Alternative dispute settlement; Caseload management; Economic analysis; Lawsuits; Legal fees
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