The Trial Lawyer Summer 2018 - Page 62

“In 2014, of the 29 states that reported, the ratio of civil jury trials to civil disposition ranged from a low of 0.06 percent to a high of only 0.55 percent. Today, the average ratio is 0.25 percent and the downward spiral is continuing toward zero. The decline of the civil jury trial should be a call to action for all of us who are concerned about the health of our democracy and the preservation of the 7 th amendment.” observed, “bringing the law to the people may not make it more just in all cases, but it will make it the law of the people, which is what it should be in a constitutional democracy.” Thomas Jefferson recognized that a jury of our peers is the most effective check against state power and has been a cornerstone in our judicial system since our nation’s birth. It legitimizes the law by providing opportunities for citizens to validate civil statutes and common law, and to apply them to the facts of specific trials creating a common sense of justice. Further, the United States Supreme Court has recognized in numerous decisions that the primary function of the jury system is to provide a check on official or arbitrary power. importance of the vanishing civil jury that I could find. The American public needs to be informed about this fundamental right and how it significantly enhances their ability to hold accountable institutions and individuals who misuse their power over other people. In 2014, of the 29 states that reported, the rati o of civil jury trials to civil disposition ranged from a low of 0.06 percent to a high of only 0.55 percent. Today, the average ratio is 0.25 percent and the downward spiral is continuing toward zero. The decline of the civil jury trial should be a call to action for all of us who are concerned about the health of our democracy and the preservation of the 7 th Amendment. A CALL TO ACTION POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS The American public has remained largely silent over the disappearance of the civil jury trial. Do they not know they have this right, the importance of this right, or that it is presently on the endangered rights list? Tragically, there is scant public education about the history and importance of the civil jury trial to our democratic principals. Notwithstanding the historic and current importance of the civil jury trial, it is one of the least understood features of our judicial system. Legal education programs teach little about the civil jury institution. Even organizations committed to protecting the Bill of Rights exalt limited public support for our right to civil jury trials. Outside of the members of the bar, there are no programs or efforts to educate the public about the history and 60 x The Trial Lawyer 1. Full-Court Funding Critical to resurrecting the American trial lawyer and the civil jury trial is ensuring that our courts are fully funded at both the federal and state levels. Court funding issues have clearly impacted and contributed to the decline of civil jury trials. We need more courtrooms and judges to preside over cases. While the number of jury trials has declined, the courts’ caseloads have significantly increased, placing pressure on trial judges to move cases, resulting in those same judges pressuring litigants and their lawyers to resolve their disputes outside the courtroom and without a jury.