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items tagged with Supreme Court

How Jury Trials Could Have Softened the Blow of the Financial Crisis
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2015-05-13 14:10:33

For most of our history, lawyers have thought of themselves as the unofficial fourth “arm” of the government. This view is more understandable from lawyers’ past role as “trial advocates” than from the present relationship between the bench and bar, which reduces the significance lawyers have in the administration of justice.

Under the law in effect in most colonies at the time our Constitution was written, lawyers were advocates who had the right to argue the merits of their clients’ cases directly to a jury. Juries, not judges, had the right to decide most cases as they saw fit both with regard to the facts and the law. As the Supreme Court noted in 1943’s Galloway V. United States: “In 1789, juries occupied the principal place in the administration of justice. They were frequently in both criminal and civil cases the arbiters not only of fact but of law.”

The king’s denial of the right to a trial by jury was one of the reasons justifying separation from England in the Declaration of Independence.

Many believed the right to a jury trial was not adequately guaranteed in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Anti-federalists urged rejection of the Constitution unless it was amended to include a Bill of Rights, which secured the right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Patrick Henry, a lawyer and well-known patriot at that time, argued: “Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. ... No appeal can now be made as to fact in common-law suits. The unanimous verdict of impartial men cannot be reversed.” This result was not because the jury would always be right, but because the result came from impartial members of the community.


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