Congress passed the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) of 1990 out of growing concern about litigation abuse in federal civil lawsuits, increasing cost and delay in those cases, and declining federal court access. The legislation commands every federal district court to promulgate a civil justice expense and delay reduction plan by December 1993. The statute also creates a demonstration program and designates the Northern District of California, the Northern District of West Virginia, and the Western District of Missouri as courts that are to "experiment with various methods of reducing cost and delay in civil litigation, including alternative dispute resolution. "

In October 1991, the Western District of Missouri established an Early Assessment Program (EAP) as a demonstration project. Under that three-year experiment, which began in January 1992, the court automatically assigns approximately one-third of its civil caseload to some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Moreover, the Western District recently completed an evaluation of the first year of experience with the EAP.

Because the CJRA's implementation is a significant attempt to decrease expense and delay in civil litigation and because experimentation, especially with ADR, in the Western District of Missouri comprises an important constituent of the national endeavor, civil justice reform in the Western District warrants examination. This Essay undertakes that effort. The Essay initially describes the origins and development of civil justice reform. It then analyzes implementation in the Western District of Missouri, emphasizing the court's experience with ADR The piece concludes with suggestions for future experimentation.

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