Why Do We Need Juries? Do They Matter?

From: We The People

Does it really matter who sits on the jury?


Aren’t all outcomes predictable?

This article by We The People, shows us why jury selection and jurors are critical to the court system.

Most Americans consider jury duty a waste of time. The state forces you to forego personal and professional obligations so that you can fight traffic and struggle to find (most likely paid) parking at the courthouse. Then you hurry up and wait in a bare room with uncomfortable chairs as unknown forces decide whether or not your service is even needed. And if you are unlucky enough to be selected, the whole ordeal could wind up lasting weeks or even months. It’s no wonder people dread receiving their summons.

But there are a number of important reasons we have juries. Remember, the right to trial by jury literally motivated the Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence explicitly cites King George’s acts “depriving [the colonists], in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury” as one of the Founders main grievances. Unsurprisingly, then, Article Three Section Two of the Constitution establishes the criminal jury as an institution. And in not one, not two, but three separate amendments making up the Bill of Rights are dedicated to guaranteeing the right to grand, criminal, and civil juries respectively. Indeed, as many have noted, the right to trial by jury at the time of our Founding was probably the most valued of all civil rights.

The Founders so valued juries for their ability to check abuses of government power by judges, legislatures, and presidents. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, privileged “the opinion of twelve honest jurymen” over permanent judges, “who are liable to be tempted by bribery and misled by favor, … relationship, … spirit of party, and devotion to the executive or legislative power.” Furthermore, the Founders celebrated the jury as a mechanism to repeal legislative acts. The jury ensured that no act of Congress could be enforced without first passing through a democratic body of ordinary citizens. Finally, the jury ensured that presidents who abused their authority could not bring charges without the stamp of the grand jury’s approval, and that those harmed by such abuses might find compensation.

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