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The challenges facing the judiciary in this country have increased dramatically over the past two decades. Civil and criminal filings have grown at a pace that far outstrips any growth in the number of judges or judicial resources. The burden of case backlogs has become ponderous. The complexity of cases has increased, with the emergence of mass toxic torts as perhaps the most striking example. Multiple plaintiffs and defendants, sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands, coupled with highly technical scientific and engineering issues, have posed new demands on the management skills and intellectual resources of the judiciary.

At the same time, the litigation process has been the subject of unprecedented scrutiny. Though our civil justice system continues to serve as a central institution of social control, research has produced compelling empirical evidence of inefficiencies and extraordinary costs. This new information represents considerable progress toward a better understanding of the system, but it has substantially heightened public concern with its inner workings, increasing pressure on the judiciary to find and implement reforms.

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