The Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona implemented the FASTAR Pilot Program in November 2017. The program was designed to address case management complaints concerning cases valued at $50,000 or less, which were automatically assigned to compulsory arbitration. Under the pilot program rules, cases eligible for compulsory arbitration could be assigned to expedited case management tracks in which the parties could choose to resolve the case by bench or jury trial (Fast Trial) or by arbitration (Alternative Resolution). Plaintiffs that failed to choose defaulted to the Alternative Resolution track. With generous financial support from the State Justice Institute, the National Center for State Courts evaluated the FASTAR Pilot Program as a technical assistance project through its Civil Justice Initiative Implementation Plan.
The NCSC found that, in more than one-quarter of FASTAR cases disposed between November 1, 2017 and September 30, 2019, plaintiffs choose the Fast Trial track. These cases were less likely to settle than cases in which the plaintiffs choose Alternative Resolution. A total of 14 cases were ultimately disposed by bench trial (6 cases) or jury trial (8 cases), thus fulfilling the program expectations that attorneys would gain valuable trial experience. The NCSC also surveyed attorneys who were listed as counsel of record in FASTAR cases. The survey response rate was 11.9 percent, and differences between case and respondent characteristics suggest that self-selection bias may have prompted lawyers with more negative opinions about the FASTAR Pilot Program to respond. For example, there was a consistent and strong consensus that the FASTAR Rules were unfair to plaintiffs. Moreover, attorneys that affirmatively selected the Fast Trial track indicated that they did so to avoid prohibitions on appeals from arbitration rather than to take advantage of the opportunity to resolve the case by trial. The evaluation report concludes with recommendations, including aligning case management rules for FASTAR cases with those for cases assigned to Tier 1 under the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.
The full report is available here.