Over the past half-century, the number of cases entering American federal and state courts has multiplied. But, largely unobserved by the public, the percentage of those cases that are disposed of by trial has steadily decreased. In recent decades, as the increase in filings has leveled off but the percentage of cases reaching trial has continued to fall, the absolute number of trials has decreased as well. Conducting trials is a shrinking portion of what judges do. The effects of this turn away from trials on judges, on litigants, and on public perceptions of the legal system remain to be explored.

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