Why the decrease in civil trial filings?

The Texas Lawyer notes that the filings for civil disputes are down 17% over the past decade. Angela Morris, the writer of the article, does a very nice job of outlining broad categories of cases and the numbers of filings since 2005. She also interviews a handful of people who provide possible explanations for the decrease in civil case filings.

Tort reform was a common answer to the question of “why are civil case filings decreasing?” Those who provided that answer say that rights that existed in the past don’t exist anymore and that certain cases are no longer economically feasible. Another explanation involved pre-suit mediation and arbitration. In sum, because trying cases has become more expensive, parties are either trying to resolve their dispute before filing or simply choose not to file at all.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is quoted as: “If it really is down, and if it’s down for some reason—and it’s a good reason—then we ought to try to make sure that we can improve on it. If it’s down because going to the courthouse is too expensive and people have just given up on trying to get there, then that’s a bad reason, and we should try to get the cost down.”

What are your thoughts? Why are the civil trial filings down? To paraphrase Chief Justice Hecht, is this good or bad?

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