A new undertaking at the Law School will focus on a venerable yet disappearing feature of the American legal system: the civil jury trial. Why are so few civil cases resolved by juries? What are the consequences? Are there reforms that might stop or slow the jury trial’s demise? The just-launched Civil Jury Project  (CJP) will tackle these questions.
The founder of Susman Godfrey, Stephen Susman , has provided funding for the project. He serves as CJP’s executive director and, as an adjunct professor, is also teaching the fall course How to Try a Jury Case Intelligently. Samuel Issacharoff , Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law, and Catherine Sharkey , Crystal Eastman Professor of Law, serve as the project’s faculty directors.
“This is a critical moment in American history for the jury,” says Susman. “The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right of trial by jury in common-law civil cases. The aim of this project is to gather and assess empirical data on the downtrending, and to examine the theoretical and practical critiques of jury trials and ways to improve them.”
While only recently formed, CJP has already enlisted as advisers a roster of distinguished judges, academics, and jury consultants, including federal and state court judges who have agreed to use their courtrooms as “laboratories” for the implementation of certain reforms in appropriate cases. Says Sharkey: “NYU’s Civil Jury Project, having brought together all relevant players—judges, lawyers, academics, and jury consultants—is uniquely poised to pursue a methodologically sound, policy-driven research agenda that will produce powerful data about the function, and future, of the civil jury.”
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