Ranking the State Courts: Is the Litigation Environment Getting Better?


By: Jacob E. Daly
Earlier this month, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (“ILR”) published the results of its 2017 lawsuit climate survey. Participants in the survey were 1,321 in-house attorneys and other senior executives at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenue who are knowledgeable about litigation matters and have recent firsthand litigation experience in each state they evaluated. The states were ranked on a scale of 0-100 based on grades assigned by participants in the following categories: (1) enforcing meaningful venue requirements; (2) overall treatment of tort and contract litigation; (3) treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits; (4) damages; (5) proportional discovery; (6) scientific and technical evidence; (7) trial judges’ impartiality; (8) trial judges’ competence; (9) juries’ fairness; and (10) quality of appellate review. Participants assigned a grade of A, B, C, D, or F for each category, and these grades were then translated to scores of 100, 75, 50, 25, and 0, respectively.
The ILR has conducted this survey 11 times since 2002 (2002-2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2017), and Delaware was the top-ranked state every year until this year when South Dakota claimed the no. 1 ranking. Interestingly, the states in which Freeman Mathis & Gary has an office all rank in the bottom half of the country, which suggests that FMG attorneys are toiling in some of the most difficult legal arenas. Those states and their rankings and scores are: New York (29th; 68.4), North Carolina (33rd; 68.2), Pennsylvania (38th; 66.3), Georgia (40th; 64.1), New Jersey (41st; 63.8), Florida (46th; 60.5), and California (47th; 60.0). In addition, the survey identified the cities and counties with the least fair and reasonable litigation environments in the country, and several cities and counties where FMG has an office are on this list: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia.
The survey shows that the overall average scores are increasing, which means that in-house attorneys and other senior executives believe that the litigation environment is improving overall, though it is interesting to note that the ranking of each state where FMG has an office has gotten worse since 2010. About 63% of participants describe the fairness and reasonableness of state courts as excellent or pretty good, which is up from 50% in 2015 and 49% in 2012. Further, a substantial majority of participants (85%) say that a state’s litigation environment is likely to affect decisions about where to locate or do business, which is up from 75% in 2015 and 70% in 2012.
The full report on ILR’s survey can be found here.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jacob Daly at [email protected].