Who We Are

New York University School of Law is home to the leading group of scholars in the fields of civil procedure and aggregate litigation. Building on this strength, the Law School created the Center on Civil Justice to connect its faculty with practitioners, judges, and other experts who share an interest in improving the civil litigation system.

The Center was launched in January 2014, just over seventy-five years into the life of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). The hope was that the FRCP would cut through the technical, non-merits formalism of the common law period, for a more "just, speedy, and inexpensive" adjudication of disputes. However, we still have much to do to reach these goals. On one hand, today’s litigation is more complex than the litigation the Rules were written to govern.  On the other, many (if not most) litigants who appear in our state courts arrive without lawyers and often without a thorough understanding of the process that has brought them to the courthouse. 

The complexity of our laws together with extensive regulatory oversight also makes litigation more expensive.  Many litigants cannot afford counsel and are forced to defend themselves in highly consequential lawsuits such as home foreclosures and deportations. Others have legitimate claims for violations of the contractual or statutory rights, yet the cost of vindicating those rights exceeds to money at stake in their claim.  And we know that even those who have substantial resources experience the destructive effects excessive litigation costs have on business. While the cost of litigation has soared, trials in civil courts have all but disappeared as the expected means of resolving disputes.

The Center does not generally focus on specific litigated disputes.  Rather we aim to maintain an informed view of the role litigation plays in our legal system. Our legal system must acknowledge and accommodate an interdependent world market with a complex web of overlapping legal authority.  It must manage large numbers of small-scale claims that could not separately stand the stresses of full adjudication. It must find a way to prevent the claims of ordinary people from being squeezed out of the justice system because, although small, they nonetheless present complex issues that are expensive to resolve.

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 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 now be done 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.

The Center operates under the direction of our resident faculty directors, Professors Samuel Issacharoff, Arthur Miller, and Geoffrey Miller. Hon. Beverly B. Martin is the Center's executive director. The chair of the Board of Advisers is Sheila Birnbaum.