Happy Independence Day!
The 7th Amendment right to civil jury trial was enumerated as an “unalienable Right” by our Founding Fathers and is the ultimate lynch pin to protect each and every fundamental right endowed by our Creator. Our Founders understood the importance of the right to trial by jury. Let us never forget.
I’ve written on this subject for the past few years. It’s an important reminder that we must always guard our freedoms.
Eric Turkewitz has also written on this subject and I encourage you to read his most recent post.
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.
With these words, on July 4, 1776, 56 men (including 34 lawyers) declared United States independence.
When was the last time actually read the Declaration of Independence? Included in the Declaration of Independence is a list of Oppressions identified by the Founders justifying their Declaration.
We’re familiar with many items on the list, including perhaps most notably “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.”
But did you know that elimination of the right to trial by jury was also a listed Oppression of the King?
“For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:”
The right of citizens to trial by jury was of such importance to our Founding Fathers that it was included in the list of Oppressions by the King in support of the Declaration of Independence. The right was also ensured in the Bill of Rights as the 7th Amendment to the Constitution.
The Founders understood the importance of the right to trial by jury. Yet this fundamental right “endowed by [our] Creator” is under nearly constant attack today. Corporations require you to sign this right away when purchasing something as mundane as a cell phone or concert ticket. Commentators disparage this fundamental right as nothing more than “frivolous lawsuits”, “lawsuit abuse” and “jackpot justice”.
The Founders understood, as we should today, that the right to trial by jury is the ultimate lynch pin for all other rights. What is your remedy if someone violates your constitutional rights to free speech, to religious freedom, to keep and bear arms, to contract, etc.? These are civil law (or civil justice) claims in which you take the bad actor to court in order to have your rights protected. What happens when access to courts is limited? What happens when you can’t bring even a meritorious lawsuit because of the risk of financial ruin under a European loser pays system? What happens when access to court is so lopsided that the average person cannot gain access? What happens when powerful lobbyists control the courts like they control other branches of government?
In Missouri, the Supreme Court has held that “[t]he right to unbiased and unprejudiced jurors is an inseparable and inalienable part of the right to a trial by jury guaranteed by the Constitution.” Kendall v. Prudential Ins. Co., 327 S.W.2d 174, 177 (Mo. banc 1959).
Yet, this fundamental right — the single fundamental liberty that evens the playing field between regular people like you and me against the world’s largest corporations — has been constantly under attack.
The Founders understood — and perhaps we should be reminded — that we as a society must take responsibility when we wrong someone. If we are not accountable for our actions, then society if forced to pay for our transgressions and care for those we hurt.
When “tort reform” bails out irresponsible individuals and corporations, taxpayers end up with the bill. Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid pays for the medical care that should be born by the responsible party. Welfare, food stamps and other government assistance pays for housing, shelter, transportation and other basic needs that should be born by the responsible party. Many victims are left to financial ruin, bankruptcy and poverty because the responsible party avoids responsibility and accountability.
For these reasons, leading conservatives across the country have rejected tort reforms and the erosion of our fundamental liberty and God-given rights.
Enjoy the holiday. God Bless America.
[More on your 7th Amendment Rights]
© Copyright 2013 Brett A. Emison
Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.