This is a particularly suitable time to host this new Center, which officially launched in January 2014. The legal profession is just over seventy-five years into the modern era of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). For all the promise of the FRCP to cut through the technical, non-merits forms of action of the common law period, the hoped for "just, speedy, and inexpensive" adjudication of disputes appears an increasingly distant vision. Our legal world is far more complex than the FRCP could ever have envisioned.
In our current world economy, even routine transactions can trigger legal oversight by local, national, and multi-national jurisdictions—each with its own administrative, statutory, and adjudicatory regime. As a result, the complications and costs of adjudication have ballooned. Some litigants have been forced to defend themselves in highly consequential, yet unaffordable, lawsuits (e.g., home foreclosures and deportations). Others with legitimate claims cannot afford to bring them to court; and still others, who have substantial resources, complain about the destructive effects excessive litigation costs have on business. At the same time that the cost of litigation has soared, trials in civil courts have all but disappeared as the expected means of resolving disputes.
It is time to take a fresh look at the role that litigation plays in our legal system without excessively focusing on specific litigated disputes. What would a legal system look like that acknowledged and accommodated an interdependent world market with a complex web of overlapping legal authority? How might a legal system manage large numbers of small scale claims that could not separately stand the stresses of full adjudication? What of claims by ordinary people that would be squeezed out of the justice system because, although small, they nonetheless present complex issues expensive to unravel?
The Center on Civil Justice follows the same principles as the other successful Centers at NYU. The goal of the Center on Civil Justice is to look realistically at the problems stressing our civil justice system and to provide a forum for research, discussion, and writing about how the participants in the system can be more satisfactorily served, while preserving the values that have made it a pillar of our democracy. The Center joins scholars, practicing lawyers, judges, court administrators, and other interested participants and encourages them to explore anew the role that litigation plays in our legal system, the values that need to be preserved, and what can be done in the modern age to preserve them. Toward that end, the Center will initiate original research; organize conferences that include law professors, practitioners, and judges; and provide a unique forum for the discussion and debate of proposed civil justice reforms.