In a nutshell, not very high compared to other states. Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform had the respected Harris Poll conduct a survey among a nationally representative sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. The sample size for NJ was 128 attorneys. The survey looked at their perceptions on these factors:
- Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation
- Having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements
- Treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits
- Timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal
- Scientific and technical evidence
- Judges’ impartiality
- Judges’ competence
- Juries’ fairness
Overall, New Jersey was ranked 38th out of the 50 states. Delaware was the highest ranked followed by Vermont. The lowest ranked state was West Virginia. Our neighbor to the west, Pennsylvania, was ranked just ahead in NJ at 37. New York was at 21.
How did NJ rank on each of the factors surveyed?
- Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation (39)
- Having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements (37)
- Treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits (41)
- Damages (38)
- Timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal (44)
- Discovery (41)
- Scientific and technical evidence (33)
- Judges’ impartiality (32)
- Judges’ competence (31)
- Juries’ fairness (39)
NJ did not finish in the top half of any category. When put into letter grades (A-F), NJ scores a C to C+ in all categories. This is NJ’s lowest overall ranking in the survey, which has been conducted since 2002.
Given that less than 2% of filed cases resolve through a trial, how much does this really mean? If you want to litigate, discovery and timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal play a big role. Those were the two lowest rankings. Since 80% of the cost of litigation happen in the discovery phase, these are important elements.
What’s the takeaway? If you truly want to resolve your dispute, stay out of the court system. Mediation and arbitration can help alleviate many of these concerns. ADR is a tailored system — tailored to best help the parties — while the court system is a one size fits all system. And judging from the results of this survey, it certainly isn’t meeting the needs of many users of the system.
Please contact me to discuss using mediation or arbitration to help resolve your disputes.