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Jan 3, 2019 by |

San Francisco and California Consumer Attorneys: Standing Up for Rights

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

The Importance of Jurors and Jury Trials in Civil Cases

Rights Depend on a “Vital and Flourishing” Jury System

Civil juries are an essential part of our democracy. A robust jury system offers a forum where individual rights can be vindicated and where the voice of the people – not the government or corporations – determines some important question in our society.  It is the place in our judicial branch of government where common sense and a vision of what is fundamentally right from the peoples’ point of view enter our body of law.  As one thoughtful federal judge recently put it, “Quite simply, jurors are the life’s blood of our third branch of government.”[1]

Make no mistake about it: the civil justice system and the Seventh Amendment’s[2] constitutional right to a jury in civil cases are under siege.  For years, corporate America and corporatist lobbies have pushed significant inroads into the effectiveness of the civil justice system with legislation aimed at restricting access to the courts and limiting juries’ power and authority.  These efforts have gathered steam under a corporatist White House eager to help big business. The need to protect the Seventh Amendment right to a jury in civil trials is greater today than ever before.

Juries only serve their essential democratic function where access to civil juries is unfettered. Increasingly, our executive and legislative branches of government, particularly at the federal level, support corporatist measures to restrict that access. Examples include forced arbitration, immunity doctrines, limitations on class actions, preemption of State tort laws and other “tort reform” initiatives, and caps on damages and contingency fee representation.  Ironically, many of the voices for pulling back the Seventh Amendment right to a jury are the same that in other contexts characterize themselves as strict constitutionalists.

There is real danger lurking in the assault on our civil justice system and Seventh Amendment rights. Many of the assaults (forced arbitration and class action limitations, for example) are aimed at persons who simply cannot afford to litigate their rights individually.  But the movement away from constitutional protections affects everyone of us.  Judge Young summed it up best in concluding his opinion cited above:

            Do you care about any of this?

            You should.

            Your rights depend on it.

[1] See Marchan v. John Miller Farms, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:16-00357-WGY, U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, December 11, 2018.  Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the case in any way.

[2] U.S. CONST. amend. VII.

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