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October 28th, 2011

On Pennsylvania Radio, ATRA Notes New Study on Reining #1 ‘Judicial Hellhole,’ Philadelphia

As Pennsylvania’s General Assembly considers important “venue reform” legislation (H.B. 1552), ATRA legislative director Matt Fullenbaum is voicing his support for the bill on statewide radio.

In response to less-than-subtle invitations from presiding judges there, plaintiffs’ attorneys from across the country are seeking an unfair advantage over defendants by filing their cases in Phildelphia, the reining #1 Judicial Hellhole.

This costly “venue shopping,” says Fullenbaum, is ultimately paid for by local taxpayers who end up providing court resources for the benefit of plaintiffs, often from out of state, with little or no connection to the jurisdiction.  Jobseekers also suffer, he adds, when employers decide to relocate their facilities and operations away from jurisdictions that become known as destinations for “litigation tourism.”

During his radio appearance, Fullenbaum referenced an empirical study of Philadelphia’s civil courts released last week by the International Center for Law & Economics, a free-market oriented think tank based in Portland, Oregon.  Written by Joshua D. Wright, a professor of law and economics at the George Mason University School of Law, the study, Are Plaintiffs Drawn to Philadelphia’s Civil Courts? An Empirical Examination, uses data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and other public sources to compare aspects of Philadelphia courts to those of courts elsewhere in Pennsylvania and around the country.

The study concludes that Philadelphia’s civil courts, particularly its Complex Litigation Center, host a disproportionately large number of cases and have a larger docket than expected.  Additionally, Philadelphia plaintiffs are both less likely to settle than plaintiffs elsewhere and more likely to prefer jury trials.  These quantitative findings are largely consistent with the qualitative conclusions drawn in last year’s Judicial Hellholes® report.  Our next report is due for publication on December 13, 2011, so do stay tuned.

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