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Summary Jury Trials in the Northern District of Ohio

NCJ Number
M D Jacoubovitch; C M Moore
Date Published
This report analyzes the summary jury trial procedure, instituted since March 5, 1980, to facilitate pretrial termination of cases in which the significant bar to settlement is disagreement between the parties regarding a jury's likely findings on liability or damages.
The summary jury trial is a half-day proceeding in which attorneys for opposing parties are given 1 hour each to summarize their cases before a six-member jury that renders an advisory verdict binding only if both litigants agree. The study involved observation of summary jury trials, review of court records, and a survey of participants, including jurors, counsel, the jury clerk, and the presiding magistrates as well as the judge who originated the summary procedure. The report provides an inventory of all cases assigned to summary jury trial through October 6, 1980, and describes attorneys' perceptions as well as those of other involved persons. It concludes that summary jury trials result in settlement of a substantial number of cases and that assignment of cases to such trials creates a greater impetus for pretrial settlement. Furthermore, the summary trial enables the participation of magistrates in the disposition of cases that would otherwise occupy the time of Federal judges. Recommendations are that use of summary jury trials continue and that the procedure be enhanced by a profile of suitable cases, guidelines for assessing the completeness of discovery, and a tracking method for cases assigned to summary jury trial. Tabular data are given; study instruments are appended.