Thursday, September 26, 2013

Goodbye, Jury Trials In Federal Court

I guess federal judges in this country have decided that the founding fathers were joking when they enacted the Seventh Amendment of the United States Constitution.   The biggest right to jury trial joke is in discrimination cases.

The Wall Street Journal published a study in 2009 and determined discrimination plaintiffs win only 15% of the time in federal court, while other plaintiffs win 51% of the time. What accounts for the difference?

Two reasons - convoluted unnatural determinations of the law, coupled with summary judgments, cases thrown out by judges with no jury trials. Most discrimination plaintiffs never have a chance to present their cases to a jury of their peers. The judge usurps that role, by throwing out cases on their own.

 And, in the rare case that is decided by the jury, almost all of the time, a judge lowers the jury's award. No one ever tells jurors that the judges think their reasoned, debated awards are stupid. In all my years trying cases in federal court, oftentimes after going to the court of appeals to get the judge-thrown-out case reinstated, the judge or the court of appeals slashes the verdict.

We hear significant debate about the 2nd amendment, while most other amendments in the Bill of Rights are considered sacrosanct, yet the 7th Amendment is considered the repugnant stepchild of the Bill of Rights family of amendments.

Why is this so?  Are federal judges out of touch with real people?  Do they think most Americans are stupid?  Or are they influenced by big business?  I don't know, but it's hardly a level playing field in discrimination cases. Perhaps we need a judiciary that is more representative ethnically and socially of the American people as a whole. Perhaps judges should not be appointed for life with fat cat pensions.

Thank goodness for state courts, particularly Missouri state courts. The playing field is less uneven. Judges let the jury system work the way it is supposed to work. Win or lose, at least you have a fair court with fair minded decision makers.

1 comment:

  1. While the Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury, it does not guarantee one can afford it.

    We are a Nation built on stolen land, lies and genocide.

    When the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was declared unconstitutional, Andrew Jackson said well let the Supreme Court fund an army to enforce their ruling.

    Pretty much ended the end of the great experiment in representative government brought forth by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

    Men who were far from perfect but who tried to break barriers.