Traditionally, Americans have been people who understood their rights and enforced them. Civil trials are much more than a means to resolve disputes, they are a great stage upon which we play out and renew our commitment to individual freedom, dignity and justice.
The jury is the most democratic of our institutions; and it is where ordinary people have the most power. That is why it has been targeted by powerful corporate interests. In the mid-1980’s, the largest insurance companies hired major P.R. firms in Washington D.C. and New York and told them to use all their powers to discredit the jury system. This effort is ongoing.
As a result, you have all heard the tales that our courts are clogged, that many or most law suits are frivolous, that we have become a litigious society. In fact, out of the 1.5 million people in Multnomah County, there are only about 100 civil jury trials each year. Clackamas County averages twelve. Insurance company propaganda, litigation costs, procedural hurdles, mediation and arbitration, have all conspired to further diminish the role and numbers of civil trials.
Our firm had fifteen civil trials last year. You, too, should do your part to preserve our justice system by speaking up whenever you hear our jury system subjected to ignorant criticism.