60 A.B.A. J. 570 (1974)
Federal Civil Jury Trials Should Be Abolished

handle is hein.journals/abaj60 and id is 571 raw text is: Federal Civil Jury Trials Should Be Abolished
by Edward J. Devitt

The use of juries in federal court civil cases should
be nonobligatory in the interests of improving the
administration of justice and providing more
expeditious trials at less cost. While a constitutional
amendment to change the Seventh Amendment
might be a long process, the federal trial judges,
supported by the bar, can take three steps to
achieve the objective.
S USE OF juries in civil cases in the federal courts
an essential ingredient of fair trial? In my view, it is
not, and the use of juries should be nonobligatory in the
interests of improving the administration of justice and
providing more speedy trials at less cost.
Compulsory use of juries in civil cases is an un-
necessary, time-consuming, and costly appendage to our
system of justice and does not well serve either the
litigants or the public. Judges in the federal system are
at least as well qualified as juries of lay people-proba-
bly better qualified-to decide issues of fact and law
fairly. But my principal interest in urging the curtailment
of jury trials is to clean up the backlog of cases, main-
tain calendars current, and obtain the better and more
efficient administration of justice.
Each member of the bar, but particularly those of
us who are trial judges, should seek new, inventive,
and more efficient methods of judicial administration.
We are well acquainted with the constantly increasing
caseload of the federal courts. We are aware of the
many efforts to cope with that caseload and to reduce
the district court backlog (now   one hundred and
twenty-six thousand cases), principally in the large
metropolitan centers. With the recent adoption by the
district courts of plans under Rule 50(b) of the Rules
of Criminal Procedure for the expeditious disposition of
criminal cases, the backlog of civil cases has materially
increased and likely will continue to do so. Justice
suffers and public criticism persists if we manifest an
inability to discharge our duties in the civil forum
Many steps to improve the administration of justice
in the federal courts have been taken. The Federal
Judicial Center was created in 1967 to conduct training

seminars for judges and their supporting personnel and
to research improvements in operation of the courts.
United States magistrates have been appointed in each
of the districts and are rendering substantial assistance
to the courts. Data processing and electronic retrieval
are being used in the larger districts to great advantage.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts
is furnishing additional assistance to the judges in many
ways. Additional personnel for clerks' offices, probation
officers, and other supporting agencies have been au-
thorized, and qualifications have been raised and effi-
ciency increased. In addition, the number of judges has
increased. In the nineteen years since my appointment
to the federal bench, the number of federal judges has
almost doubled.
Notwithstanding these improvements in the operation
of the federal courts and the multiplication of judge-
ships, caseloads continue to climb, and the backlog of
civil and criminal cases is still with us. We must find
new ways to discharge our responsibilities. Certainly we
cannot continue just to add more judges and build
bigger courthouses.
I think it is fair to say that the backlog of cases in
the federal courts, particularly in the metropolitan
centers, is caused largely by the number of civil jury
trials required by the Seventh Amendment. Very few
jury trials are held in the federal courts other than
those based on diversity of citizenship. Most of these
are negligence cases, and most concern automobile ac-
cidents. Is jury trial of these cases truly essential in
order to secure a fair and equitable determination of
the issue?
A judge alone hears equity, admiralty, and maritime
matters, naturalization and immigration issues, bank-
ruptcy cases (with some exceptions), and habeas corpus
petitions. There is no jury trial in Federal Tort Claims
Act, Miller Act, Tucker Act, or Longshoreman and
Harbor Workers Act cases. The National Labor Re-
lations Act does not provide for jury trials. There are
no juries in the Tax Court, the Customs Court, or the
Court of Claims. Patent matters are tried to the court.
Many administrative agencies, including the Interstate
Commerce Commission, decide issues without the as-
sistance of juries. In general, all statutory proceedings
created since 1789 have no provision for and the Con-
stitution does not require jury trial.
If the federal courts were relieved of diversity juris-
diction or if that jurisdiction were substantially curtailed,

570   American Bar Association Journal

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