Article by:
Kip Nelson

36 Campbell L. Rev. 201 (2014)

ABSTRACT. While the portrait of a trial has traditionally been painted as a single proceeding that determines all of the relevant issues, bifurcated proceedings are those in which some issues or claims are separated. Federal and state courts generally have the authority to bifurcate proceedings in their discretion. The North Carolina General Assembly, however, recently passed a law that limits a judge’s discretion and institutes a presumption in favor of bifurcation. This statute is the first of its kind in the country and is a significant change in trial procedure. Other states are already considering similar legislative reforms. The issue rekindles important policy questions including the role of legislatures in governing judicial proceedings and the leveraging power of corporate defendants. This Article discusses the implications of such legislative reform and concludes that more research is necessary to determine the value of bifurcation. Using North Carolina state and federal cases as an example, as well as a discussion of the practical and policy consequences of bifurcated proceedings, the Article argues that bifurcation decisions should be placed within the trial court’s discretion rather than with the legislature.

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