The Rule of Law is more important in Alabama today than perhaps ever before. For that reason, I thought it necessary to write on the subject in this issue. It’s essential to understand the importance of the Rule of Law for all Americans. The jury is an important part of the American judicial system; it guarantees the Rule of Law will prevail. I have written previously about the importance of the jury system in this country.
The jury box is the one place where political influence from powerful interests cannot control an outcome. We constantly see how powerful special interest groups virtually control our government. That is especially true with agencies that have the mandated responsibility to protect consumers – to make sure to the extent possible that products are safe for their intended use – to see that the advertising of products is truthful, and to assure that business relations are fair and just between all parties.
We are a nation that depends on the Rule of Law for its very existence. Further, as Professor Ronald Cass, author of “The Rule of Law in America,” points out:
The nature of the judicial system is critical to the Rule of Law. Impartial judges, governed by clear legal rules, committed to enforcing the rules as written, independent of political influence are essential if law is to be a reliable guide to individuals and a constraint on those in power.
The jury system is tremendously important in making sure that the laws are fairly and justly enforced.
The long-established concept behind the Rule of Law can again be found in our own Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….
Without any doubt the right to trial by jury is one of our most important constitutional rights. I learned long ago that lots of folks believed the U.S. Constitution guaranteed a trial by jury only in criminal cases. However, that is not the case. The right to trial by jury in civil cases is also guaranteed by the very same constitution. The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution gives citizens the right to a jury trial in “suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars.”
There should be little debate over the fact that the right to a jury trial is a very important one. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, who believed strongly on the subject, said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Clearly, the right to trial by jury is an essential safeguard for a free society. With that being said, why has the civil jury system in the U.S. been under constant attack?
I know from experience that juries have made a real difference for ordinary citizens. The public welfare has been well served by the civil jury system. Our judicial system is the one part in our system of government that, when it works as intended, helps to keep our nation strong and free and guarantees liberty and justice for all of our people.
Lawyers and judges are an essential and critically important part of the system. It is absolutely necessary for each of us who are in the system to do our jobs well and in the right way. I am very proud and also humbled to be a part of the judicial system. It is a system for which I have great respect. The Rule of Law is the bedrock of our Democracy and it must be upheld at all cost.
My prayer today is simply for the preservation of the civil justice system in this country. It’s the place where people should be able to go to settle disputes that can’t be otherwise resolved. We must all work to make the system free, independent and accessible to all.
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