The founding fathers and the jury system
Articles,  Blog

The founding fathers and the jury system

Hi, this is Brigham Cluff. This is my sixth
video in my series all about Arizona juries, what the Founding Fathers thought about the
jury system and the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. Juries were of great importance to the founders of our country. It was actually one of the
motivating factors that prompted the Revolution to begin with. There was this concern among
the Americans that their liberties were being taken away by the King of England. Those liberties
included taxation without representation and although it hasn’t received quite as much
attention, another issue that was very important was that their jury system was being taken
away from them. They were being deprived of the right that they had to serve on juries
and to decide the questions of fact that would come in front of courts by themselves.
Rather than they being able to compose the jury, those decisions were being made by courts,
by judges appointed by the King, the King’s judges. You can imagine that that created
a system where there was a lack of trust in the results that the justice system was producing
at that time. The jury system was of tremendous importance to our founders, and it was of
such great importance that when our Constitution was adopted and when the Bill of Rights, which
was the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, was adopted, the right of a jury system was
codified in the Constitution. The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, one of the
original Bill of Rights, rarely gets mentioned these days, but to me, it is of great importance,
and it deals with our jury systems. Now I’m going to read the Seventh Amendment
for you, and before you click away, let me just tell you it’s very brief, okay? I’m going
to read the Seventh Amendment for you and then I’m going to discuss what it means. The
Seventh Amendment says, “In suits at common law,” and that’s personal injury cases, by
the way. Common law includes things like negligence. “In suits at common law, where the value in
controversy shall exceed $20, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact
tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than other
according to the rules of the common law.” That’s it. That’s the Seventh Amendment.
The right of trial by jury shall be preserved. What that means is these cases are not going
to be decided by a judge or by a panel of bureaucrats or by Congress. It’s going to
be decided by a jury. A jury is composed of the citizenry. That’s all of us. We decide
what happens in these cases. We decide the questions of fact. Now, in the law, there
are issues that get divided into 2 different categories, questions of fact and questions
of law. Questions of law get answered by the judges. Questions of fact get answered by
juries. What is a question of fact? I’ll give you
an example of a question of fact which is one of the most important questions of fact
that you come across in a personal injury case, which is, how much is this case worth?
That is a question that gets answered by a jury. How much is the case worth? That’s a
question of fact. The Seventh Amendment says that this right of trial by jury shall be
preserved and that once that fact is tried to a jury, it’s not going to be re-examined.
A group of legislators, Congress, they’re not going to re-examine that fact. A group
of bureaucrats, they’re not going to re-examine the fact. The jury answers that fact. That’s
in the Constitution. I’m a big fan of the Constitution. I love
the Constitution. In my humble opinion, it is an inspired document, and it codifies some
of our most precious liberties. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to
bear arms. Right there in the Bill of Rights along with those high and holy liberties that
we have in this country is this right of controversies to be tried to a jury. It was that important
to our Founding Fathers that they included it in the original Bill of Rights.
A contemporary, or someone who preceded them in time by only a short time, was a great
legal scholar in England by the name of Sir William Blackstone. There was a beautiful
quote by Sir William Blackstone regarding the importance of juries to our justice system.
Here’s what he said. “Every new tribunal erected for the decision of facts without the intervention
of a jury is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute governments.”
Our jury system is what protects us from that. Please watch all of my videos in my series
all about Arizona juries and I’d be happy to have feedback from you and I’ll reply to
any comments that I receive. Hi, my name is Brigham Cluff, and you will never believe
this 1 weird trick for getting out of jury duty in Arizona. The second type of bias that
I want to talk about is something that we all justify and feel very strongly about which
is the bias that come to be known as the wisdom of crowds. Now the wisdom of crowds is really
a fascinating topic. It’s been around for quite a while.
You spend so much time as an attorney trying to figure out in your mind what would a jury
do. There are some advantages for a plaintiff of being in state court as opposed to federal
court. I’m going to read the Seventh Amendment for you, and before you click away, let me
just tell you it’s very brief, okay? I’m going to read the Seventh Amendment for you and
then I’m going to discuss what it means. People are under the belief that juries are very
easy on criminals and very hard on corporations.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *