Lst Reading Notes: apr7

Decline of the Jury (p469-496)

Reading for today engages you into deciding whether or not trial by jury is in decline in the courts system of the United States and convinces you of the importance trial by jury has in a democratic society. Most of the reading is persuasive for that argument. The Reading starts by saying that a lack of jury leads to a build up of alienation and isolation of the individual or a lack of a sense of community. This will inevitably end in a tyrannical rule. It says that power of the jury is important to health of our democracy and the preservation of the importance and liberty of the individual. It then says juries are primarily involved in a decreasing number civil and criminal cases. Most civil cases are settled outside of court so those cases are obviously not brought before the jury.

  • in 1980 only 8% of civil cases filed were brought before a judge or jury

> of this 8% less than 1/3 were jury trials
> only 1 of 25 civil cases wind up before a jury

  • in 1980 only 16% of criminal cases were brought before a judge or jury

> of this 16% a little over half (52%) were jury trials
> only 1 of 12 criminal cases wind up before a jury

note: according to "Reinvigorating Citizenship" an article written by Stephen Bates, 60% of people summoned for jury duty don't even show up.

Then it talks about tort reform

  • tort: a wrongful act, not including a breach of contract or trust, that results in injury to another's person, property, reputation, or the like, and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation.

Tort reform legislation claims to make civil litigation fairer and more efficient by reining in jury discretion in damage awards. When a case does see a jury, jury sizes are often reduced and they question of whether or not a unanimous decision is required in criminal cases. They say this is done in an effort to save time and taxpayers' money by reducing the length of trials.

Morton Horwitz "The transformation of American Law": 3 devices to restrict scope of juries

  • lawyers expanded the specials case – submitted points of law to lawyers w/o jury intervention
  • new trials awarded for verdicts contrary to weight of evidence
  • early 19th century the bar made a distinction between law and fact, corresponded to division of judge and jury. 1807 judges now required to state their opinion on every point of law involved. Taking the responsibility of determining the law from the jurors and giving it solely to the judge

Tort reform: supporters say trial lawyers undermine the nations sense of responsibility by taking frivolous claims and convincing juries to award overblown amounts.
Tort reform: opponents say reform exempts corporations from regulation that expresses the moral sense of the community and an effort to remove one of the last barriers to creating an oligarchy in America.


Johnson v Louisiana
questions Criminal case where punishment is necessarily at hard labor tried to a jury of 12, vote of 9 for a verdict
Johnson arrested, pleaded not guilty convicted 9 to 3
Argument is that 14th amendment requires a unanimous jury verdict in all criminal cases. He challenged the Louisiana legislature to which permitted less serious crimes to be tried by 5 jurors with unanimous verdicts, more serious crimes with assent of 9 of 12, most serious crimes a unanimous verdict of 12 jurors. The ruling of the court stood.

Apodaca v Oregon
Jury found conviction on a felony case voting 10 to 2. Also refuted claim that minority groups would be excluded from influencing the verdict when unanimity was not required. Their response is that a particular minority viewpoint may not be represented in the verdict even when said minority group is present in the jury because they may simply be outvoted

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