American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 50, Issue 3 (2014)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Although portions of the United States economy have begun to recover from the economic crisis that the country experienced from 2007 to 2009, the nation’s judicial system has rebounded more slowly. Forty-three states have substantially cut their judicial budgets.1 In many jurisdictions, the waiting time for civil trials in state courts has dramatically increased—in at least one major metropolitan area, the waiting time for many litigants has risen to five years.2 Budgets for alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) programs have also shrunk considerably.3 In light of these realities, many litigants struggle to obtain civil justice.

Empirical research designed to elucidate litigants’ preferences for legal procedures can help courts better serve their constituents moving forward. For example, many courts offer either mediation or arbitration as the only alternative to trial. But which of these two procedures do litigants prefer? Procedural preference research can provide such information and consequently help inform program design. Such research can also help lawyers be more responsive to their clients’ needs as they consider their procedural options and better predict the preferences of opposing parties.