Independence Day – Saluting The Seventh Amendment on the Fourth of July
June 29, 2018
BY: Domhnall O'Cathain
Did you ever think of taking a minute to thank Olde England on Independence Day?!
A long time ago, King Henry II ruled over England. Then, like now, people had disputes over who owned land. To solve the disputes, King Henry declared that members of the public could come together, decide the facts, and make a decision on who should win.
A few years later, King John had the crown. King John was not loved by his people and had to come up with something to buy himself more popularity. To keep himself above water, a document, called the Magna Carta, was put together. It gave the people certain guarantees to make them happy, such as less money to pay the king and the right to a jury trial to solve disputes.
When the English came to the Americas, they brought some of the good and some of the bad. We know the bad and that is why we celebrate the 4th of July. But like all groups and races that built America, the English brought a lot of good. The good? A system of law and rights that now give people the right to have members of the community decide their disputes – not a king, not a computer, not a corporation – but Americans, of every race and belief, who are aged 18 years or older.
The Beginning of Trial By Jury
The jury trial was given constitutional protection over time. The 7th amendment of the Constitution states that “… the right of trial by jury shall be preserved …”.
But the opposite has happened in England where fewer and fewer cases go to a jury. In England, it is now criminal cases and some civil cases— such as slander and defamation— that are decided by juries. Who decides the other cases in England? The judge in the wig and robes.
Your right to have a jury decide your case is always under attack here too.
Corporations want cases decided by arbitrators. Doctors want to limit the amount of money you get for your medical malpractice injuries. Lawmakers are trying to cut attorney fees to the point where it is not economically possible to file lawsuits. Judges are limiting the questions your lawyer can ask the jury. Lawyers who don’t know how to try a case with a jury are luring people out of courts and talking about alternative dispute resolution.
So, if you want to honor a founding principle of our nation this Independence Day, one that gives people a fighting chance against the might of the government, corporations and insurance companies, take a minute to read the text of the 7th Amendment.
“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 otherwise be re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
So, let’s salute America and be thankful for one of our most precious and underrated freedoms, the right to have your dispute decided by a jury.
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At Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC, we are wishing you a very Happy Independence Day.