Report on Colorado Simplified Process Rule Option

In 2004 Colorado put in place statewide a Rule 6.1 permitting the parties to use a simplified trial process in certain relatively low-stake cases.

A report on this experiment is now available here, and it is reported on in the most recent E-SJI News.

The Rule is voluntary — parties can opt out.  The rule applies only to cases with less than $100,000 at stake.  The main difference for cases going under the rule is the treatment of discovery.

This Rule requires early, full disclosure of persons, documents, damages, insurance and experts, and early, detailed disclosure of witnesses’ testimony, whose direct trial testimony is then generally limited to that which has been disclosed. Normally, no depositions, interrogatories, document requests or requests for admission are allowed, although examination under C.R.C.P. 34(a)(2) [inspection of real or personal property] and 35 [physical and mental examination of persons] is permitted.

While the Rule now applies statewide, between 2000 and 2004 it was piloted in certain cases assigned to one judge.  There were two datasets studied, those in the pilot, and those eligible generally and closed in 2010.

Since lawyers or parties were opting out, at their own choice, and there was no randomization, any conclusions are far from clear.

Some things can be concluded.

  • Statewide most of the cases under the rule involved the self-represented.
  • Statewide most of the cases under the rule involved failure to answer (and thus the rule had no impact on their process)
  • The option is used far more in collection cases than other cases.
  • In the pilot study, the Rule 16.1 cases had a shorter time to disposition, but statewide they did not.  (There was reduction in time to “final event” but not much is made of that.)
  • Both groups show significant reductions in number of motions filed — not surprising, given that so many motions are discovery related.
  • However there was only a significant reduction in court appearances in the Pilot study, not in the 2010 cases closed study.
  • Attorneys and lawyers (who volunteered to be interviewed, producing another area of potential error) reported little use of the approach — although this was not supported by the overall data.  The inconsistency may be explained by the fact that so few of the cases to to trial, or even involve an answer.

So, it is not clear that much can be made of this.

More may come out of a different project the Colorado Civil Rules Pilot Project.  The Project is explained in this PowerPoint.  The project includes early disclosure, resistance to continuances, the same judge throughout the case, limitation to one expert and requirement of expert report, and more aggressive caseflow management


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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