101 Ways To Improve State Legal Systems

September 13, 2012

As the nation struggles with sluggish economic growth and record levels of unemployment, state legislators, executives, and other policymakers must use all the tools available to them to aid in the economic recovery. An essential ingredient in this mix is legal reform. By adding rationality and predictability to the American civil justice system and rooting out unnecessary costs, civil justice reform can increase confidence in the economy and create or, at the very least, save jobs. In fact, an empirical study commissioned by the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) estimated that the stimulus resulting from improvements to state legal systems could increase private sector employment by 1.0% to 2.8% in the states with the most costly legal environments, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems in 2013 & Beyond” provides policymakers with a compilation of some of the many avenues available to foster a sound legal system that promotes states’ economies. The reforms are organized into five areas. The first section highlights five reforms that have gained momentum and should be of particular interest to state legislators. The report then considers fair and effective measures that would improve the litigation process, improve product liability law, promote rational liability rules, and rein in excessive damage awards. While this report presents proposals for legal reform options in a conceptual manner, it directs readers to recently enacted laws that show how legislators can move the proposals described in this guide from theory into practice.

After the “Spotlighted Reforms” section, the order in which these reforms are presented does not necessarily reflect their level of importance, priority, or effectiveness. The options in each section must be evaluated in light of a specific state’s political and legal landscape. ILR presents these options and recently enacted legislation to provide a useful resource to the reader. Inclusion of a legal reform in this report does not necessarily mean that ILR endorses a listed approach or favors one specific option over another.