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Abstract

This paper reviews the recent history of civil litigation in England and Wales. While previous work by Professor Kritzer has shown an absolute decline in trials over the last fifty years, with some fluctuation around this trend, this comment suggests that this may now have bottomed out. Given the evidence of a simultaneous, and continuing, decline in the number of claims filed, it may even be the case that trials are, at least temporarily, playing a larger part in the civil justice system than they have for many years. In contrast to the experience in the U.S., these changes seem to be intended and unintended consequences of deliberate policy decisions by government and senior judges, which have changed the options and incentives for other stakeholders. As such, it is important to be cautious about the extent to which comparable trends in countries with comparable common law jurisdictions have comparable explanations. In particular, we will argue that the English experience should not be seen as a simple indicator of the "Americanization" of English law or English litigation culture. Nevertheless, Professor Galanter's concern for the wider social implications of a declining trial rate also has relevance to the United Kingdom and its jurisdictions.

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