June 25, 2017

IAALS Releases Preliminary Findings on Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project

Corina_Gerety_bw_smallThis post originally appeared on IAALS Onlinethe blog for IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, on April 7, 2014.

By Corina Gerety

IAALS is pleased to announce the completion of its preliminary evaluation report on the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project (CAPP), which tests a new set of pre-trial procedures for business actions in state district court. The project, which began in January 2012 and runs through December 2014, is in place in five Denver metro-area courts.

Relating to pleadings, disclosures, discovery, and case management, the CAPP rules were designed to bring the disputed issues to light at the earliest possible point, tailor the process proportionally to the needs of the case, provide active case management by a single judge, and move the case quickly toward trial or other appropriate resolution. The preliminary report combines the results of a docket study with attorney and judge surveys.

Our initial analysis reveals that the CAPP process as a whole has succeeded in achieving many of its intended effects, including a reduced time to disposition, increased court interaction, proportional discovery and costs, and a lower level of motions practice. Much of the positive feedback relates to CAPP’s early, active, and ongoing judicial management of cases, with many calling for this to become a permanent feature of the rules.

For those cases that are at least minimally contested, one of the challenges of the project relates to differences between simple and complex cases. The first part of the CAPP process (rolling and staggered deadlines for pleadings and initial disclosures) appears to work better in simple cases, while it can fall apart in complex cases. The second part of the CAPP process (everything from the joint case management report forward) appears to provide a real benefit for complex cases, while it can be too much for simple cases. This is just one nuance in the results, and the full report will provide interesting reading for those engaged in these issues—both inside and outside of Colorado.

This report accompanies other recent reports on rules projects taking place around the country, includingNew HampshireMassachusetts, and Utah. It is preliminary because some cases in the docket study sample have not yet resolved and because differences in the survey data based on case or respondent characteristics will need to be more fully explored. The final report will be released in the fall of 2014.This is, however, a very valuable starting point.

Click here to download the Preliminary Findings on the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project.

Corina Gerety directs long-term research and evaluation projects for IAALS. Her work involves legal and empirical research, analysis, and writing, as well as research-related collaboration and presentation. She conducts research for all IAALS initiatives on an as-needed basis. Gerety came to IAALS in the Spring of 2009 from the public sector, having worked for a number of years in the Office of the Colorado Attorney General and in clerkships at the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado’s Second Judicial District Court, and the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

IAALS: Recipe for Rules Change Success: An Update on Colorado’s Pilot Project Evaluation

Corina_GeretyBy Corina Gerety

This post originally appeared on IAALS Online on October 29, 2013.

IAALS follows a four-step framework for continuous improvement of the American civil justice system. Within our Rule One Initiative, we gather research on existing court processes, convene stakeholder groups to develop recommended models aimed at increasing efficiency and access while reducing costs and delays, facilitate the implementation of those models, and support measurement of their outcomes. This process provides a feedback loop for crafting civil procedures that make a real and positive difference for all who use our courts, on both sides of the “v”. IAALS works with courts, judges, lawyers, and other stakeholders to shepherd these changes, so together we can create a better system.

Currently, many of the rules projects implemented around the countryare in a measurement phase, and the resulting evaluations will provide valuable information to decision-makers on whether the projects fulfill their goals when put in practice. Although the timing can vary, the lapse of a few years between implementation and the final evaluation results is not uncommon. It takes some time for enough cases to work their way through the system to the point where it is appropriate to draw empirical conclusions about the implemented rule changes.

This kind of evaluation is a bit like baking. Even with quality ingredients and the temperature set just right, taking the dish out of the oven before the timer goes off will not provide a fair basis for judging the recipe. In the meantime, however, everyone is hungry. Without the ability to see the progress being made, it is quite tempting to grab an oven mitt and have a taste.

In the spirit of turning on the oven light so that all may have a look inside, this short Update on the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project Evaluation provides information on the specifics and timing of the evaluation that IAALS is conducting in Colorado.

Hopefully, this information will provide some reassurance to the Colorado legal community on what to expect in the coming year, while also providing some insight into other evaluation processes that are going on around the country. Though the recipe for each evaluation differs, the time devoted to gathering data is always critical.

Stay tuned!  We will keep you informed of all of the results as they come out.

Corina Gerety directs long-term research and evaluation projects for IAALS. Her work involves legal and empirical research, analysis, and writing, as well as research-related collaboration and presentation. She conducts research for all IAALS initiatives on an as-needed basis. Gerety came to IAALS in the Spring of 2009 from the public sector, having worked for a number of years in the Office of the Colorado Attorney General and in clerkships at the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado’s Second Judicial District Court, and the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

New IAALS Study Asks and Answers “What Has Happened with Rule 16.1 in Colorado?”

IAALS has just released a Rule One Initiative research report entitled Measuring Rule 16.1: Colorado’s Simplified Procedure Experiment. In 2004, the Colorado Supreme Court put in place Rule 16.1, a voluntary pretrial process for smaller dollar-volume civil cases, with the hope of providing a more efficient path to resolution. This new report sets forth the results of an empirical study of Rule 16.1, including its role and impact. With growing interest in streamlined pretrial procedures, case differentiation, and optional processes, we felt it was important to examine one such rule that has existed for some time. Through this study, IAALS attempts to answer the question: What has happened with Rule 16.1 in Colorado?

Rule 16.1 is the default pretrial procedure in Colorado district court for typical types of civil actions with less than $100,000 in controversy between any two parties, although any party may “opt out” and elect to use the standard pretrial process instead. This “simplified” procedure generally replaces discovery with mandated disclosures, along with assurances of a faster route to trial. Recovery under Rule 16.1, including attorney fees but excluding costs, cannot exceed the $100,000 limit.

The study documented the highest rate of Rule 16.1 cases in consumer credit collection actions (95%) and other straightforward contract actions in which damages are fixed or liquidated. In 70% of cases proceeding under Rule 16.1, there is no appearance by any defendant, and more than half resolve by entry of default judgment. Overall, the perception among interviewed attorneys and judges is that the cap on damages and inflexible limits on discovery have discouraged attorneys from using the procedure. In other words, given the choice of opting out, many attorneys do just that.

In the 30% of Rule 16.1 cases that were contested and therefore invoked the provisions of the procedure, there is mixed evidence on the rule’s impact. With respect to time to disposition, the county in which the case is filed appears to play a larger role than Rule 16.1. In addition, Rule 16.1 cases have not been shown to have a higher trial rate. However, Rule 16.1 is associated with a decrease in the number of motions filed. It is not possible to know whether the results would have been different if the rule was more frequently applied in actively litigated cases.

Colorado’s experience may contain insight for other jurisdictions as they experiment with formulating sets of rules to more effectively secure the “just, speedy, and inexpensive” resolution of civil cases. Click here to read the full report.

Corina Gerety is Manager of Research for IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. IAALS is a national, independent research center dedicated to continuous improvement of the process and culture of the civil justice system. This post originally appeared on IAALS Online, the IAALS blog, on November 28, 2012.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.