Monthly Archives: July 2014

Write Congress to Save Our Juries

Does writing or calling your member of Congress help? The answer is yes. Contact makes legislators aware of a constituency interest, which has important consequences for future policymaking. Please send a letter to your local representative through our contact Congress system. The interactive map will connect you directly to the leaders in your state.

Contact is the single most consistent predictor of how legislators perceive issues in their districts. If there’s an issue you care about, be heard. Let Congress know that we cannot allow the civil jury trial, and the Seventh Amendment to vanish. Help us save this pure means of democracy.

http://saveourjuries.org/index.cfm?pg=CongressWeb#/7

 

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“…the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred”

From Blackstone, on the necessity of civil jury trials:
“Every tribunal (Judge), selected for the decision of facts, is a step towards establishing aristocracy—the most oppressive of all governments.”

From George Mason, Declaration of Rights (the preface to the Virginia Constitution), June, 1776:
” 11.  … in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.”

John Adams probably borrowed from this when he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution (that was defeated by the voters in 1778, but passed in 1780):

Part I, Article 15:  “In all controversies concerning property and in all suits between two or more persons, except in cases in which it has heretofore been otherways used and practiced, the parties have a right to a trial by jury; and this method of procedure shall be held sacred …”

Pretty strong stuff.  Mason was a key actor in the Constitutional Convention until he stormed out and refused to sign it.  The document that was ultimately signed was in large part based upon the Adams draft, which, in turn, borrowed from Mason’s Virginia draft and, going back further, relied heavily on Magna Carta as the source for limitation on governmental powers.

The irony, in some ways, is that leading Virginia lawyers like Mason and Jefferson, many of whom trained in the Inns of Court and were therefore devotees of Coke and his constitutionalism, adopted a Natural Rights philosophy more akin to Blackstone.

Massachusetts lawyers who had almost no training in the Inns, were often heard quoting Blackstone, but Adams based his government theory on Coke, constitutionalism and Magna Carta.  Personally, I think Adams had it right, but maybe I am biased a bit.

By Christopher A. Duggan

 

The Death of the Civil Jury Trial

“If we allow the civil jury trial to wither and die here, we could
be losing more than we know.”
Mark P. Robinson, Jr. President of American Board of Trial Advocates

It has been estimated that the United States, with 5 percent of the global population, holds 90 percent of the world’s criminal trials and almost all of its civil jury trials. There is no doubt that the right to trial by jury is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice. Thomas Jefferson called trial by jury “the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” And William Rehnquist noted that “[t]he founders of our nation considered the right of trial by jury in civil cases an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a ‘safeguard too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign.’” Nevertheless, over the last several decades the right to a jury trial in civil cases has been silently and slowly eroded.

Read the full article by Mark P. Robinson, Jr. and please post your comments. We look forward to your feedback.

Save Our Juries Has Launched

The mission of Save Our Juries is to uphold the jury system and the right provided by the 7th Amendment by educating the American public about the history and the value of the civil jury trial.

Our launch is in conjunction with the 4th of July, symbolizing the recognition by the founders of our country that the right to a jury trial is a liberty which they would no longer be denied. Jury trials allow citizens a forum for grievances to be heard by their peers in order to produce a fair outcome, and why the justice system is for everyone, not just for those who have the means to pay for it.

We will have weekly updates highlighting relavant news and current trends. We look forward to your feedback and support.

Save Our Juries

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