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This symposium shows that "vanishing trial" phenomena touch an extremely broad range of issues including transformations of society, courts, dispute resolution procedures, and even the nature of knowledge. These phenomena relate to decisions by litigants in particular cases, court systems, national policy, and international relations. This subject is too large and complex for any symposium to analyze fully, especially at this early stage of analysis. This symposium makes an important contribution to this study, with theories and evidence about the existence, nature, and extent of reductions in trials and similar proceedings. It elaborates a range of theories about possible causes including changes in the number of problems that might be taken to court, transformations of legal and other institutions, governmental policy and administrative decisions, shifts in legal culture, ideological campaigns of powerful elites, interests of litigants, and epistemological beliefs. It highlights the jeopardy of certain public interests, including risks to community and increased exploitation of "have-nots" by "haves" in society. It also offers some hope with possible strategies to deal with problems, including changes in courts' role and operation, legal education, and collection and dissemination of information about settlement. We are indebted to Marc Galanter for initiating and continuing this inquiry.



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