April 20, 2019

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.

New Report Is a Manual for Implementing Short, Summary, and Expedited Civil Action Programs

Recognizing that there is widespread concern that the civil justice system is too complex, costs too much, and takes too long, a new report provides recommendations for designing short, summary, and expedited (“SSE”) programs and calls for implementation of such programs on a national scale. The report, A Return to Trials: Implementing Effective Short, Summary, and Expedited Civil Action Programs, is co-authored by IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System; the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA); and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

A Return to Trials builds on the work of the NCSC, which recently detailed existing SSE programs around the country, and goes further by making recommendations for implementing, conducting, and measuring effective programs.

The NCSC studied SSE programs that had been implemented in six state courts. “The most surprising thing about those programs,” explained Paula Hannaford-Agor, who directed the research project, “was how creatively they were designed to address very different local conditions that were obstructing access to trial. Although they all shared the same basic objectives, the programmatic details differed considerably. It was those details, which derived from negotiations among key stakeholders in each program, that really contributed to their success.”

A Return to Trials would not have been possible without jurisdictions, like California, that have already begun to implement SSE programs, but it was written for jurisdictions that have not yet taken that step. Many lawyers and judges in those jurisdictions have been eager to use the report to make SSE programs a reality in their courts.

“Short, summary and expedited jury trials benefit lawyers, courts, jurors, and—most importantly—litigants,” said Michael Maguire, House Counsel for State Farm in Orange County, California, and member of ABOTA’s National Board of Directors. “These programs improve access to justice by cutting down the expense and delay of litigation. Significantly, trial results are the same. In New York, South Carolina, Nevada and California, the ratio of plaintiff to defense verdicts is the same as in longer, more expensive traditional trials.”

“We need solutions to the backlogs and delays that are dominating the civil justice system,” said Thomas Fain, a partner at the law firm of Fain Anderson VanDerhoef in Seattle, Washington. “Because the work of these three organizations transcends state lines, this report is positioned to guide our consideration of a short, summary, and expedited program here in Washington.”

Alli Gerkman is Director of Communications 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 October 30, 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.

Loren M. Brown Named Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year

The Colorado Bar Association Young Lawyers Division announced Tuesday that Loren M. Brown is this year’s recipient of the Gary L. MacPherson Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Mr. Brown is a shareholder with Donelson, Ciancio & Grant, P.C., in Broomfield.

Mr. Brown, age 35, has already shown great leadership skills in both the legal community and the community at large. He serves on the Board of Directors for Metro Volunteer Lawyers, an organization that provides access to justice for those who could not otherwise afford it; CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties, which trains and organizes court-appointed special advocates for child victims of abuse or neglect; and the 17th Judicial District Access to Justice Committee, which provides the public with legal resources.

The Gary L. McPherson Outstanding Lawyer of the Year award is given annually to a young lawyer with an outstanding record of professional success, community service achievements, a strong commitment to civic participation and inspiring others. Mr. McPherson was honored with the award in 1993; he went on to serve three terms in the state legislature. The award was renamed in his honor following his death in 2000.

Mr. Brown will be honored at the Young Lawyers Division holiday party on December 12 and at the Colorado Bar Foundation Annual Bar Fellows Dinner in January.