American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 54, Issue 1 (2018)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


F or more than a century, excessive costs and delays have been a chronic complaint about the American civil justice system. Although some states took steps to improve civil case processing in the past, most of those efforts had only a negligible effect, if any, and few were able to sustain those effects over time. Recently, however, a number of states have implemented civil justice reforms that couple changes in procedural rules with improved civil case automation and staffing models that offer new hope for significant improvements in civil case processing. This paper focuses on four reforms implemented in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida (Miami-Dade); in Strafford and Carroll counties, New Hampshire; and statewide in Utah and Texas.1

hire; and statewide in Utah and Texas.1 The working assumption for all four reforms was that streamlining the litigation process, providing more effective oversight, and reducing opportunities for satellite litigation would save litigants both time and money without compromising fairness. Assessing the impact of the reform on time is a fairly straightforward task. Timeto-disposition is a standard measure that courts have used for decades to assess performance. Many states have adopted explicit time standards for civil cases based on either the Model Time Standards for State Trial Courts2 or state-specific time standards. Most states also monitor clearance rates to identify backlogs before they become excessive.3