Monday, September 22, 2008

'Tis better to be in federal court after all

I don't think I'm giving away any state secrets of the defense bar by saying that all told, employers would much rather be in federal court than state court. Federal court gives a better jury pool and a much better chance that a summary judgment motion will be granted. Now, a study commissioned by the American Constitution Society confirms this long held belief. According to the study, which was based on data from 1979 to 2006, plaintiffs who brought employment discrimination suits in federal district courts prevailed only 15 percent of the time, compared to 51 percent for non-employment related cases. Some other key numbers from the study:

  • The filing of employment cases in federal court has dropped by 37% from 1999 to 2007.
  • The courts of appeals reverse 41% of plaintiffs' victories in employment cases.
  • The same courts of appeals only reverse 8.7% of defendants' victories in employment cases.

While comparable state court data is not available, it does not take a huge leap of logic to conclude that federal filings are down 37% because more cases are being filed in state court.

This study is not necessarily groundbreaking news, but it does underscore the importance of forum selection in an employment lawsuit, and the real value to a company to have its case heard in federal court.

[Hat tip: Legal Blog Watch]