Washington Law Review

Article

One Percent Procedure

October 22, 2015 | 91 Wash. L. Rev. 1005

Abstract: Political rhetoric about the one percent is pervasive, as those with the greatest concentrated wealth prosper and the remaining population stagnates. Because of their affluence, the one percent exercise disproportionate control over political and economic systems. This Article argues that federal civil procedure is similarly a one percent regime. The crème de la crème of the bench and bar, along with equally exclusive litigants, often engage in high-stakes, complex civil litigation. It is this type of litigation that dominates both the elite experience and the public perception of what civil litigation is. This litigation is not particularly common, however; while expensive and well known, it is in the minority. Yet this litigation and the individuals engaged in it have an incongruent influence on how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and procedural doctrine develop. They create one percent procedure.

This Article interrogates and connects disparate phenomena related to civil litigation, including the recent discovery amendments and the rise of multidistrict litigation. It demonstrates that the elite—those who are deeply steeped in complex, high-stakes litigation—are setting the agenda and determining the rules for how the entire civil litigation game is played. It further argues that the benefits of a one percent procedure system—notably expertise of the participants—are not worth the costs; indeed, that expertise can be detrimental to the design of a civil litigation system.

As in politics and economics, a system that gives too much control to the one percent risks undervaluing and underserving the remaining ninety-nine percent. Using social and political science, the Article argues that the homogeneous policymaking of one percent procedure creates suboptimal results. The Article concludes that the structures giving rise to one percent procedure must be modified and proposes a set of reforms intended to allow the ninety-nine percent representation in, and access to, the process of constructing our shared civil litigation system.

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