Repeal the Seventh
By: Cody, aka @Post_1776
I’m operating under the assumption that you are fully aware of the context, meaning, and interpretations of the 7th Amendment so I will spare you any kind of summarization of what it means and get straight into analysis/opinions.)
The seventh amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was very important to Post-Independence American society. Back when the founding fathers, who were simple farmers at the time, were writing the Bill of Rights they concluded that the seventh amendment was a necessity. When America was under the rule of Britain, all of the judges had a noticeable bias in favor of the king, so trials for colonists were typically unfair and one-sided. Thus, when they had the ability to create their own set of rights and laws after declaring independence, they were absolutely determined to make the trial process not altered by bias. So, the seventh amendment was drafted into the Bill of Rights, where it still stands today, only just not as important.
Civil jury trial has always had its flaws. These flaws have only become increasingly evident with time, and there is almost no way to reform them. Civil jury trial on a global scale has almost entirely disappeared and is not prevalent in the United States any longer for two reasons.
The first reason that it is not common is because of the simple structure of it. In the American republic‘s, the representatives who make an enforced the laws were elected by the citizens and were crafted according to the specific situation at the time. So the question becomes, why should 12 jurors, who are non-elected, random citizens, have the power to make a decision based on laws when there is an entire legislature and court system whose task is to interpret it.
The second being the lack of capability to comprehend and reason effectively. Judges typically understood that ordinary juries will always have difficulty understanding cases including complicated events and laws. The jurors are required to listen to all the facts and evidence in the case in such a short amount of time, it is hard to force them to make a decision without them becoming overwhelmed. Also, if the case is appealed, it is hard to dismantle the verdict because it was formulated by a large group of people, none of which had to give a reason why they made that decision. When you’re dealing with “Common Law”, as the Amendment states, the only way to truly correct a jury was to call a whole new trial with a whole new jury, which was both time consuming and expensive. Many other solutions were created to try and make up for the shortcomings of common law but overall it ended up coming to restricting the cases ability to fully develop by limiting the number of witnesses or claims one could make in the civil trial.
The main alternative to this system was called “equity” used by the English, which allowed judges to make their educated decisions based on the law. They succeeded in their effectiveness for two reasons. The first being that they could handle situations in more complex ways than simply ordering people to give money as reparation. Also, around the 18th century, judges in equity would also have to give reasons for all of their decisions. This way, there is a clear and professional reason for the interpretations that judge made on the case. Thus, if the case was appealed, it would have a solid reason for being appealed, as opposed to common law where individual jury members can just say what they want without the expectation of an explanation. The seventh amendment ultimately is distinguishing common law and equity, when it specifically states “In Suits at common law” and “according to common law”.
Even though the old English common law has been revised slightly to fit the modern era, now there are no limits on how many claims or pieces of evidence you can use. You’d think this would be counterproductive in helping the jury’s ability to comprehend what’s happening… With modern technology, evidence and testimonies in civil cases are just far too numerous and complicated for a simple jury to take in in such a short amount of time. Also, these jury trials have become longer and more expensive. Lastly, these trials are becoming even more irrelevant because in the modern technological era of the 21st century many can gather significant information before a trial even has to happen. In 2018 judges can discover plenty of information through Pretrial, which allows them to decide if a party even has enough evidence to take the case to a jury in the first place. This causes a large increase in the amount of settlements and a large decrease in the number of civil jury trials.
The seventh amendment to me should be massively reformed. It is unfortunate to say that the American Public is not as educated about politics and law as they were around the 1700s. I believe the idea of a trial by jury is very important to American society. It is one of the reasons we succeeded from Britain’s tyrannical rule. They had biased judges that favored their king and were not always fair to the colonists. I might even say the seventh amendment serves to protect us from tyranny just as much as the second amendment. It prevents the government from dominating and imprisoning citizens without good reason. I don’t believe in complete abolishment of the seventh amendment, but I do believe in a structured reform of it. It would be in the best interests of society to further educate the American public on law-related issues before having them make interpretations on it in a trial setting. Personally, I would love to be in a jury setting, to feel like my vote matters. However, if I can’t fully comprehend the notions of the case then how can I make an honest decision without being affected by the peer pressure of those around me who are expecting an answer. I feel that the common American would struggle in the same sense that I could. So on behalf of me, the American public, and the true and fair justice to the parties involved in the civil jury trial, I ask that the seventh amendment is modified so that it may continue to protect the American public from tyranny.