"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
–Amendment Seven, Bill of Rights
Stratton Faxon is dedicated to preserving our 7th Amendment. As trial lawyers, we support both individuals and organizations who resist legislative efforts to limit citizens’ rights to full and open access to courts and complete recovery for harms and losses caused by the negligence of others. Stratton Faxon also contributes both its time and finances to local organizations that support our civil jury system, providing a voice to those who otherwise might not have the resources to stand up to big corporations and/or insurance companies.
The sheer magnitude of the Bill of Rights, and the 7th Amendment in particular, is irrefutable and its implication resided in the hearts of many great leaders in American history. George Mason would not even sign the Constitution unless the right to trial by jury was made explicit. Thomas Jefferson once said he considered the right to trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its Constitution.
Clearly, our founding fathers not only recognized the value in the collective judgment of ordinary citizens, but also relied on it as a sensible course of action for conflict resolution. This privilege is still one of the most important and democratic features of justice in our society today and should be cherished by all Americans. In the 200 years since the Bill of Rights was signed, some have tried to down play the seventh amendment or eliminate it altogether. Below are some of the reasons our jury system is still effective and why every American’s right to trial by jury should always be preserved.
- A jury is made up of local men and women who are in the best position to evaluate the conduct in question and how it compares with the standards of the community in which they live.
- The composition of the jury is not known in advance of the trial, thus reducing the likelihood of undue influence being exerted on the jurors from either side.
- Jurors cannot be paid by either side. They can only consider evidence that meets a certain threshold of reliability and can only consider testimony given under oath. They cannot be approached by one party without the presence of the other party. (Compare this with the legislative process, where access to the decision-maker often depends on contributions having been made by an interested party; testimony is frequently not given under oath; no reliability threshold for evidence is required; and interested parties usually lobby the decision maker outside the presence of the other interested parties).
- Jurors commonly complete their service in just a few days or weeks and then return to their private lives. Judges are often on the bench for many years, and in some cases for life, leaving them vulnerable to ongoing efforts to influence their decisions.
- It may be possible to find one errant adjudicator who is out of touch with their community. It's much harder to find 12 ordinary citizens who will come to an outrageous result, and even if they do, there are mechanisms in place to correct such a result.
For more information regarding the preservation of American jury system, please visit www.justice.org.
The Bill of Rights grants you the right to discuss this and other topics of importance with your state representatives. Residents of Connecticut are represented in Congress by two senators and five representatives. Click here for a list of Connecticut’s Congressional Representatives.