Decline in the Use of Jury Trials

Only two percent of civil cases and a similar proportion of criminal cases that are not dismissed are settled by plea bargaining are decided by a jury.

The low percentage of criminal prosecutions being resolved by a jury trial is the result of their being settled by plea bargaining which helps manage the heavy caseloads in most jurisdictions. The reason for the low use of trials in civil cases is more complex. Various studies have indicated that compared to a bench trial where a case is heard only by a judge, a jury trial costs much more and lasts from twice to three times as long. The increasing complexity of what a jury has to decide in a civil trial makes such alternatives as mediation, negotiation, arbitration, and mini-trials attractive because individuals involved in the proceedings are already knowledgeable in the subject matter of the case. The increased complexity of modern civil cases makes jurors less likely to understand the judges’ instructions. Finally, the jury selection process itself tends to weed out the more well informed jurors who are able to handle complex case subject matter.

Inside Decline in the Use of Jury Trials