The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform has released its latest survey of state legal climates. Unfortunately, New Jersey’s ranking fell to 38 this year, down from 32 in 2012 when the survey was last released. This is cause for anxiety in a state that is struggling to grow its economy since the survey also found that “75 percent of attorneys at U.S. companies say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, including where to locate or expand.” That is an 18 percent increase from eight years ago, and an all-time high.
The rankings are derived from a poll of more than 1,200 general counsels and senior attorneys or leaders in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million conducted through telephone and online interviews between March 9 and June 24, 2015. Respondents were asked to give states a grade (A through F) in each of the following areas:
- Having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements
- Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation
- Treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits
- Timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal
- Scientific and technical evidence
- Judges’ impartiality
- Judges’ competence
- Juries’ fairness
Respondents were also asked to give the state an overall grade for creating a fair and reasonable litigation environment. These elements were then combined to create an overall ranking of state liability systems.
Below is a chart summarizing New Jersey’s rankings on the above factors.
“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that New Jersey rates so poorly,” said Marcus Rayner, president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. “We’ve known for years that we have a problem, but little has been done to remedy it. For example, right now we have five common sense reform bills with bipartisan sponsorship just sitting in the legislature waiting for action, but there haven’t even been hearings scheduled on them. Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call,” said Rayner.
NJCJI’s calls for reform are echoed in a white paper released by the Chamber at the same time as the survey which lists “101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems.” The first area where action is needed that is mentioned by the white paper is over-enforcement, which is the subject of our September 18 conference.