June 15, 2012

Are Individuals Losing the Right to Trial by Jury?

Despite our founders’ great affection for the jury and the role that jurors play in administering justice, the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth and Seventh Amendments has been characterized as an endangered species. In various civil contexts, ranging from securities to civil rights, the jury trial is becoming extinct. Investors, consumers, employees, and others are denied their day in court because of mandatory arbitration agreements. In criminal cases, mandatory minimums and other sentencing laws force white collar and other defendants to take plea deals; the risk of going to trial and losing too great. What does the vanishing jury trial mean for our justice system? Can attempts be made to save it?