Aug 12, 2022
Jones v. Smith, Much to Learn From One Case
Before I went onto the bench, I practiced law for 20 years handling civil litigation. In addition to my legal work, I served as the game-day statistician for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1982 through 1994. I love football and I was paid to sit in the Press Box, watch the game from the 50-yard line and keep track of every movement of the ball. Life can be tough!
I enjoyed the fast pace of keeping track of all the statistics while the game was unfolding. It gave me the opportunity to combine my love of sports with my love of numbers. At the end of each football game, I called New York and spoke with the Elias Sports Bureau. They received all the game-day NFL statistics from me and the other statisticians around the country, which they inputted into their computers. Those stats were then sent out to the newspapers, television stations, and NFL teams as the official statistics.
When I became judge, I was assigned to a few different assignments and eventually I got my dream assignment, to preside over an Independently Calendared (“IC”) courtroom. The IC assignment gave me the responsibility of shepherding each case assigned to me from its filing to its conclusion. Once I settled into my courtroom, I became interested in the percentage of my cases that settled. Many of my cases were quite contentious and I saw the attorneys on a regular basis with requests for ex parte relief, motions, etc. With other cases, I never saw the attorneys.
After one year as an IC judge, I decided to do an evaluation of my caseload. I sat down and reviewed all the cases assigned to me to determine what percentage of those cases had either settled or had been dismissed regardless of the extent of my involvement with the case. Another way to look at this process was to determine what percentage of my cases went to trial.
The process was straightforward. I added up all the cases that either went to judgment or were dismissed. I discovered that 97% to 98% of my cases were resolved without trial. The number was much higher than I estimated.
Once I established this stat, I then posed another question: Is there something in common with the cases that went to trial? To answer this question, I looked at the files and specifically my notes from those cases that went to trial; I discovered something in common with each of them.