The Vanishing Civil Jury Trial

February 2009
By Judge Marilyn Litzenberger, Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Speaking of trials, do you find yourself trying fewer and fewer cases and notice that your trials are further and further apart? Do you wonder what's driving this trend? So do we. Multnomah County Presiding Judge Jean Kerr Maurer appointed several judges to investigate issues surrounding the "vanishing" civil jury trial. Judge Janice Wilson wrote about these efforts in her "Tips from the Bench" column last September. You should have received a link to a survey from the MBA via the MBA E-Newsletter on this subject in January. The court's committee is collecting data from the survey and plans to gather additional data through focus groups. Judges want to know what factors are contributing to this trend and what can be done to insure the courthouse continues to be a place where civil disputes can be resolved economically and efficiently. Other groups are working on this issue too and efforts are underway to propose changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules that will provide a mechanism for summary jury trials as a lower cost alternative to the traditional trial.