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Historical Perspective on Right to Jury Trial In Civil Cases

The need for “tort reform” continues to be a common refrain among certain political elites, but the reality is that the claim is nothing more than a misunderstood attempt to take away rights from many innocent victims.

The Center for Justice and Democracy recently prepared a historical primer on the right to jury trial doctrine that so-called “reformers” are hoping to eliminate. The document outlines the fact that the right to a jury trial was repeatedly emphasized as one of the most important rights to early Americans. As far back as 1641, Massachusetts colonists enacted a charter that explicitly provided for civil and criminal jury trials. The importance of the explicit reference to the right cannot be understated-even vital protections like free speech and free press provisions had yet to be mentioned at this point in history.

Later as tensions rose between England and the colonists, the British leadership attempted to restrict the right to jury trials for Americans. The Stamp Act, one of the main impetuses of the Revolutionary Way, riled our Founding Fathers in large part because its enforcement was made by judges alone. John Adams remarked, “[T]he most grievous innovation of all is the alarming extensions of the power of the admiralty…no juries have any concern there.”

Following the war, the new states themselves repeatedly drafted constitutions that included a civil jury trial. For example the Virginia model declared, “In controversies respecting property and in suits between man and man, the parties have a right to trial by jury, which ought to be held sacred.”

Our Chicago malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti remain committed to ensuring that all victims of malpractice receive a fair open hearing in front of a legal body of their peers. The right to a jury trial is something our attorneys respect and support in our everyday work. We will stand behind all those who are working to keep the justice system open to all those injured by others. If you or someone you know has become a victim, contact a malpractice attorney to help seek redress.

Please Click Here to read more about the historical foundation of this vital legal right.

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