Civil Jury Project Overview
The Civil Jury Project (CJP) is an academic Center based at New York University School of Law. It is currently the only academic Center in the country dedicated to studying civil jury trials.
The Seventh Amendment to the US Constitution and provisions of most state constitutions guarantee citizens the right of trial by jury in common-law civil cases. But it is beyond dispute that the civil jury trial is a vanishing feature of the American legal landscape. In 2018, for example, 0.5 percent of federal civil cases were tried before juries—down from 5.5 percent in 1962. This amounted to an average of 2 civil jury trials per authorized federal judgeship in 2018—down from 10 in 1962. Similar trends are evident in state courts across the nation.
What are the causes of the civil jury trial’s near extinction? What are the consequences—for the legal system and society more broadly? And for those who advocate preserving and revitalizing the civil jury trial, what steps might be taken? These are the core areas of inquiry for the CJP. The CJP explores these questions through the following five avenues (among others).
A. The CJP undertakes empirical assessments of the current role of the jury in our civil justice system, the reasons for its decline, and the impact of that decline on the functioning of the civil justice system overall. The basic question is whether jury trials continue to serve the role anticipated by the Framers of the Constitution. Relatedly, the CJP examines the consequences of the decline and what institutions currently fill the void.
B. The CJP re-evaluates ways in which juries are constituted and jury trials are conducted. The question is not simply whether there should be a right to trial by jury, but how that right can be exercised consistent with basic commitments to speedy and efficient resolution of civil disputes.
C. The CJP creates education programs and publicity outlets for studies and policy proposals on the jury trial.
II. Judicial and Scholarly Network
The CJP has a rapidly growing network that now includes 290 state and federal judges from around the country who serve as Judicial Advisors. They are listed on the CJP’s website together with a detailed description of all ongoing projects. The CJP also has a network of 70 Academic Advisors who bring prolific scholarship and interdisciplinary legal perspectives to the study of civil jury trials. The CJP also has a network of 42 Jury Consultant Advisors.
III. State and Federal Judicial Workshops
In an effort to draw on the expertise of judges who preside over civil juries on a regular basis, the CJP regularly convenes State and Federal Judicial Workshops. During the 2018-19 academic year it will have hosted separate State and Federal Judicial Workshops at NYU Law in the fall, as well as another pair of State and Federal Judicial Workshops in the spring. The CJP will be hosting two additional Workshops in the fall of 2019. These workshops provide an off-the-record forum for judges to share expertise about such subjects as voir dire and efforts aimed at improving the comprehension and experience of civil jurors. At the end of each Workshop, the judges in attendance share ideas for future CJP research projects. These suggestions have been an enormously generative resource for the Project and have set the stage for numerous newsletter articles authored by its Judicial Advisors.
IV. Monthly Newsletter and Social Media
The CJP publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Jury Matters, copies of which can be accessed by clicking here. The project also maintains active social media pages including a Twitter platform that shares news of high profile civil jury trials and reform efforts around the country and world. This page (and posts) can be accessed here.
V. National Programming Aimed at Improving the Jury System
The CJP also organizes educational programs for legal practitioners around the country. They are called “Jury Improvement Lunches” and involve inviting citizens who have recently served on juries to discuss their jury service experience in front of an audience of trial lawyers and judges. The goal of these events is to consider reforms that might strengthen the civil jury system more broadly.
During the past academic year alone, the CJP has organized lunches in Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Miami, Fort Hall, Los Angeles, Tucson, New York City, Boise, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Oakland, Des Moines, Chicago, and Salt Lake City. Additional Jury Improvement Lunches are being planned for the upcoming academic year.
For the benefit of bar organizations and others who wish to host Jury Improvement Lunches on their own, the CJP has prepared a detailed memo that explains how these events work. Local bar organizations sponsor these lunches and encourage their members to attend though they have no financial obligation. Practicing lawyers receive CLE credit and pay for their own lunches. All local civil trial judges are invited as guests and are asked to invite jurors they have recently discharged. We contact the jurors who RSVP to see which ones are willing to participate in panel discussions. Almost all agree. Many lawyers who have attended these lunches agree that they should be repeated at regular intervals. You can find videos of CJP Jury Improvement Lunches on the Project’s website by clicking here.