Monday, February 15, 2010
Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow (Georgetown & UC Irvine) and Dean Bryant Garth (Southwestern) have posted to SSRN their essay, Process, People, Power and Policy: Empirical Studies of Civil Procedure and Courts, which is forthcoming in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Empirical Studies. Here's the abstract:
This review essay, by Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow and Dean Bryant Garth, reports on the history and deployment of empirical studies of civil procedure rules, court policies, and legal developments for reforms of court procedures and practices in both the United States and England and Wales. It traces the influence of particular individuals (e.g., Charles Clark in the United States, and Harry Woolf in England) in the use of empirical studies of litigation patterns and court rules to effectuate legal reforms. The essay reviews some particularly contentious issues over time, such as whether there is/was too much or too little litigation, access to courts, discovery practices, evaluations of the effects of particular rules, such as Rule 11 verification requirements, class actions, and practices such as court use of ADR, case management, and pre-trial conferences. The authors argue that empirical research on procedures and policies in courts have mostly been conducted in service of particular reform agendas, with a few exceptions of more "pure academic" study. The essay concludes with some suggestions for research questions that explore questions of who does the research for what purposes. Do researchers use research to develop their own "human capital" or legal reform influence? How do we know what optimal rates of court usage are? Can empirical studies shed light on more normative questions about what are optimal levels of process, access to courts, and when justice is delivered in formal court institutions?