Updated 3:44 p.m.
In a new survey conducted by a leading group of defense attorneys and in-house counsel, more than four out of 10 respondents said they doubted the fairness of civil courts.
All in all, 41 percent of those polled said they harbored such doubts. Just 9 percent said they were very confident that civil court results were "just and fair" — and 16 percent said they had no confidence the results were fair.
Respondents also concluded that they would much rather have their cases heard by juries than judges.
According to the poll, released September 12 by DRI—The Voice of the Defense Bar, even though people view judges as being fairer than juries, 64 percent said they would prefer a jury trial to a bench trial.
The poll found that 69 percent of respondents said judges mostly base their decisions on facts and the law rather than personal opinion. But respondents were split on whether juries make decisions based on facts and the law or personal opinion.
Many respondents openly admitted that their personal biases would affect their decisions as jurors. That included almost 6 in 10 who said they would favor individuals in cases against insurance, oil or financial companies. In a similar vein, about two out of three respondents said they thought class action suits made corporations more responsible.
Langer Research Associates of New York conducted the study for DRI from August 15-19. The results were based on 1,020 phone interviews.
John Kouris, DRI's executive director, said the poll indicated that "a surprisingly large number of Americans are not confident in civil justice system…[I was] surprised that so many people showed a lack of confidence."
Kouris noted that his group undertook the poll "with the understanding that we were going to publish results whether we as an organization agreed with findings or not."