The civil jury system in our country was under constant and intense attack during all of the years of the Bush Administration. Their blatant attempts to protect wrongdoers in Corporate America were beyond comprehension. It soon became apparent that the jury system was in danger of being destroyed and the right to trial by jury in America taken away. While there had been attacks before Karl Rove and his gang actually took over the federal government, the attacks greatly intensified under Rove’s direction once he got to Washington. As a result, the protections intended to be afforded by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were being systematically dismantled. Without a doubt, the carefully-constructed plan was to protect and benefit the bad guys in corporate America and to penalize innocent victims.
The jury system has been recognized as essential to a free people and over the years has stood the test of time. The following are examples of what some historically significant figures have said on the importance of the right to trial by jury.
The jury system has come to stand for all we mean by English justice, for as long as every case must be scrutinized by twelve honest men and women, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant alike have a safeguard from arbitrary perversion of the law.
Winston Churchill (1956)
Freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of the person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith.
Thomas Jefferson (1801)
Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.
James Madison (1789)
Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom by which our ancestors have secured their lives and property. I hope we shall never be induced to part with that excellent mode of trial.
Patrick Henry of Virginia (1788)
Those words of wisdom, meant not only for their respective generations, but more importantly, for those to come, are right on target. Hopefully, at least most of our present day leaders share those convictions. I am convinced that the new administration in Washington believes that the jury system is important and is worthy of being saved and that should give all of us hope for the future.
Unfortunately, the judiciary, state lawmakers, and members of Congress have been parties – some willingly and some not – to the well-financed movement designed to destroy the jury system. It’s not surprising that the public has been pretty much oblivious to what has been happening. Some of the very citizens for whose benefit those inalienable rights were provided have even bought into the myth of tort reform after hearing all of the stories about how “broken” the jury system had become and how it needed to be “reformed.” Many have forgotten how vitally important trial by jury in this country has been for ordinary folks over the years.
Those who want to destroy the system have spent hundreds of millions of dollars financing political campaigns and have utilized slick public relations efforts along the way. Many citizens haven’t realized that their rights are being trampled or were actually in danger of being lost. As part of the Rove-devised plan, we have seen such things as mandatory, binding arbitration in every conceivable consumer transaction replace the courts as a place for a consumer to take a dispute for resolution and justice. We have also seen federal preemption – pushed by the Bush Administration – being effectively used. This is a concept that, unless checked, would allow the manufacturers of defective and dangerous products to get away with obvious wrongdoing, leaving no place for an injured person to go for relief.
We can’t assume that all is well and become complacent just because a new Administration is in power in our Nation’s Capitol. Many of us have been in the trenches and have fought a good fight. Those who haven’t been involved, however, must now get involved in the fight to preserve the right to trial by jury. None of us can afford to sit this battle out and hope that others will do the job for us. It’s not too late to reverse the trends that have developed during the Bush-Cheney-Rove years, but in order to make things right members of Congress must have the courage to say no to powerful corporate lobbyists. It will also require a judiciary free from special interest control. My prayer for America’s well-being is that the right to trial by jury – the cornerstone of liberty and justice for all citizens — is now safe and secure.
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