This article presents findings from the first multi-court study examining how civil litigants evaluate the characteristics of legal procedures shortly after their cases are filed in state court. The study surveyed 413 litigants in California, Oregon, and Utah. The participating litigants were asked a series of questions about their preference for a procedure that would resolve their disputes. The study found that litigants tend to evaluate procedures based on who has control – them or a third party. Litigants preferred procedures in which a third party has control and in particular a procedure in which an attorney speaks on their behalf. Litigants least liked procedures in which they spoke freely with the other party. Additionally, the study found that litigants preferred procedures that were governed by court rules and least liked when they had to decide what rules would govern the procedure. The study also evaluates how age and gender factor into litigant preferences.
This article is the first in a series of articles presenting different aspects of the author’s research into the decision-making of litigants in civil cases. Other articles reported that litigants prefer mediation, evaluated how litigants select procedures and discussed their lack of awareness of what options were available to them.