American Law Institute launches draft principles on high-volume, high-stakes, low-value civil claims



American Law Institute launches draft principles on high-volume, high-stakes, low-value civil claims

PHILADELPHIA – The Board of the American Law Institute voted today to approve the launch of a Principles of Law Project that will address a serious challenge facing state courts: resolving high-volume civil litigation , high stakes and low dollar value. The project will be led by journalist David Freeman Engstrom of Stanford Law School.

These types of claims, which arise in areas such as debt collection, evictions, home foreclosure and child support, account for a significant proportion of cases brought before state courts. These types of cases raise unique issues because they are often uncontested, resulting in a high number of default judgments, and usually involve at least one party without counsel.

“State court records have become dominated by cases that, while smaller in scale and arguably less complex than other types of civil litigation, are decidedly high stakes for many litigants. These cases shape the lives of millions of Americans, especially women and people of color,” Engstrom explained. “The future of the civil justice system and the legitimacy of the courts at its center will depend on how judges, administrators courts and a range of other decision-makers will respond to these new realities.”

Engstrom continued, “The project will define the issues raised by these claims and address the fundamental, and often competing, process values ​​of efficiency, accuracy, and fairness that are involved in deciding them. It will articulate principles for procedure and case management, court administration, use of technology, supply and demand for legal aid, institutional design and dispute avoidance to assist courts and decision-makers to chart a wise course forward.

ALI Principles projects are primarily aimed at legislatures, administrative agencies or private actors. They can, however, be addressed to the courts when an area is so new that there is little settled law. The principles will often take the form of best practices for private or public institutions.

“I am delighted to be able to announce the launch of these draft principles,” said ALI Director Richard L. Revesz. “Small-scale but individually and systemically important cases now make up a large portion of state court cases, and these cases are critically important to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans and to the integrity of our legal system. ALI regularly reviews the legal landscape to identify areas in need of reform where the Institute can provide reliable advice. With David at the helm, this Principles project will certainly bring great benefits to society. »

Director Revesz will now work with ALI Deputy Director Eleanor Barrett and Professor Engstrom to identify reporters and advisers associated with the project. Barrett explained: “We work diligently on each project to ensure consideration of diverse viewpoints and an impartial review of the law. Courts, legislatures and others have come to rely on ALI’s work because of its thorough drafting process, its independence and integrity, and the intellectual caliber of those involved in the projects. .

ALI will actively consult with judges’ organizations, court administrators and other groups that are already engaged in important work in this area.


David Freeman Engstrom is a professor of law at LSVF and co-director of the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School. He is a specialist in the design and implementation of litigation and regulatory regimes whose expertise extends to civil procedure, administrative law, constitutional law, law and technology and legal studies. empirical.

Professor Engstrom’s current work focuses on access to justice, from complex mega-litigations that grab headlines to smaller but very important cases, including debt collection actions and evictions, that shape the lives of millions of Americans every year.

Particular emphasis is placed on the role of technology in the civil justice system, including lawyers’ use of “legal tech” tools to serve their clients as well as a growing menu of new technologies designed to help those without lawyers. Professor Engstrom has published many articles on these subjects and is the editor of the next volume, Legal technology and the future of civil justice (Cambridge University Press 2023). Engstrom is also the co-founder of the Filing of equity project, an ambitious and innovative effort that brings together six states to simplify filing procedures and remove barriers faced by unrepresented litigants. From 2020-2022, he was a public appointee to the California State Bar’s Closing the Justice Gap Task Force, tasked with proposing reforms to foster innovation in legal service delivery models. Full biography available on the Stanford Law School website.

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About the American Law Institute

The American Law Institute is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and improve the law. ALI drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes restatements of law, model codes, and principles of law that are hugely influential in courts and legislatures, as well as in legal research and education.

By participating in the work of the Institute, its distinguished members have the opportunity to influence the development of the law in existing and emerging fields, to work with other eminent lawyers, judges and scholars, to give back to a profession to which they are deeply committed, dedicated and contribute to the public good.

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