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General Litigation Newsletters

Alternative Dispute Resolution/Mediation in Appellate Courts

In the 1970s settlement conferences were used in the appellate courts in response to the increasing number of appeals that were being filed. Settlement conferences had mixed results. In the 1990s, appellate courts began using mediation conferences to encourage the settlement of civil cases on appeal. The underlying assumption is that all cases do not need full appellate review by the appellate court.

Bias in the Courts

Various task forces, commissions, and committees have studied racial and ethnic bias in the courts. The issue is an important one because the perception of bias undermines public trust in the judicial system. A lack of confidence in the system affects a person’s participation in the justice system. Individuals who perceive bias in the justice system may have doubts about the fairness of court procedures and outcomes. They may also be less willing to report crimes, file lawsuits, and serve as jurors.

Domestic Violence Courts

Domestic violence has been a growing problem in the United States. In the 1990’s, specialized courts were set up in some states to deal exclusively with domestic violence matters. Domestic violence courts are problem-solving courts, which seek to not only punish criminal behavior but also to resolve the underlying issues that brought the parties into the criminal justice system.

Opening Statements and Closing Arguments at Trial

A trial begins with opening statements by the attorneys for the litigants (the parties in the lawsuit). The plaintiff (the party suing) has the burden of proof in the case. This means the plaintiff must prove the allegations in his/her complaint in order to win the case. The standard of proof in a civil lawsuit is a preponderance of the evidence (the facts are more in favor of the plaintiff than the defendant, the party being sued.) In a criminal prosecution, the government is the plaintiff. The government has to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Judicial Conference of the United States

In 1922, the United States Congress created a body called the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges to administer the federal judiciary. In 1948, Congress passed additional legislation and changed the name of the governing body to the Judicial Conference of the United States. The Judicial Conference handles the administrative matters of the federal court system.