Legislatively Directed Judicial Activism: Some Reflections on the Meaning of the Civil Justice Reform Act

With the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA), Congress attempted to further a trend that the federal judiciary had undertaken largely on its own initiative. Sensing a critical need to address the mounting expense and delay of federal civil litigation, Congress, like the judiciary, sought to increase the degree of early and active involvement of judges in the adjudicatory process. The result of this mandate has been a further emphasis on the role of the judge as a case manager. As a necessary corollary, the liberty and self-determination of individual litigants-ideals that have historically been seen as philosophical cornerstones of the Anglo-American adjudicative process-have been correspondingly diminished. In this Article, the authors examine the departure from the philosophical moorings of the Anglo-American system of justice that implementation of the CJRA represents and consider whether the gains to be achieved by the Act, if successful, offset the potential costs to the litigants that the Act imposes.