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State Rule Changes on Deck

Tuesday, October 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mary Mack
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A new initiative may radically change how eDiscovery is practiced in US state courts.

In order to increase access to justice and unclog state courts, there is a concerted effort to right- size civil process.  Swim lanes are envisioned for different practice areas like complex litigation and employment.  It is hoped that segregating cases will allow for a deeper dive into complex cases, and speedier resolution of the volume of routine cases.  Tom Allman and Rebecca Love Kourlis of Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, two familiar stewards of recent significant Federal Rules of Civil Procedure changes, are working on the initiative with a host of other organizations.

“At the heart of the reforms is a call for “right-sized” staffing for routine caseflow management, with judges delegating substantial responsibility to specially trained staff supported by state-of-the-art technology. This would free up judges to focus on those aspects of civil justice that require their special skills,” reported Joe Calve in an article in the September 2016 Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.

Following are the 13 recommendations put forth in “Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All,” endorsed last month by the Conference of Chief Justices. The full report can be found here.       

I. Courts must take responsibility for managing civil cases from time of filing to disposition.

II. Beginning at the time each civil case is filed, courts must match resources with the needs of the case.

III. Courts should use a mandatory pathway-assignment system to achieve right-sized case management.

IV. Courts should implement a Streamlined Pathway for cases that present uncomplicated facts and legal issues and require minimal judicial intervention but close court supervision.

V. Courts should implement a Complex Pathway system for cases that present multiple legal and factual issues, involve many parties, or otherwise are likely to require close court supervision.

VI. Courts should implement a General Pathway for cases whose characteristics do not justify assignment to either the Streamlined or Complex Pathway.

VII. Courts should develop civil case management teams consisting of a responsible judge supported by appropriately trained staff.

VIII. Courts must provide judges and court staff with training that specifically supports and empowers right-sized case management.

IX. Courts should establish judicial assignment criteria that are objective, transparent, and mindful of a judge’s experience in effective case management.

X. Courts must take full advantage of technology to implement right-sized case management and achieve useful litigant-court interaction.

XI. Courts must devote special attention to high-volume civil dockets that are typically composed of cases involving consumer debt, landlord-tenant, and other contact claims.

XII. Courts must manage uncontested cases to assure steady, timely progress toward resolution.

XIII. Courts must take all steps necessary to increase convenience to litigants by simplifying the court-litigant interface and creating on-demand court assistance services.

The report is a joint venture of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), with funding provided by the State Justice Institute (SJI). The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), an association of top state judicial leaders, and its civilian counterpart, the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), support it.

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