Yesterday, 43 Catholic dioceses, organizations and universities sued the Obama administration, in 12 separate suits, to block the imposition of the Obamacare mandate to offer, in health insurance plans, drugs and devices which are forbidden by Catholic teachings, such as contraception and abortifacients. The plaintiffs include the University of Notre Dame (my law school alma mater), the Archdioceses of Washington and New York City, and a number of local affiliates of the national Catholic Charities.
And near the end of the lawsuits, the plaintiffs added the magic words to invoke the right to a civil jury trial: “Pursuant to Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury of all issues so triable.” That rule begins as follows:
“(a) RIGHT PRESERVED. The right of trial by jury as declared by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution–or as provided by a federal statute–is preserved to the parties inviolate.”
I can think of no better way for the public to learn about the God-given right that the Founding Fathers called “sacred” and “inviolable!” If these suits actually proceed, all America will witness the 7th Amendment in action, with local juries hearing the arguments brought by each side. I am ecstatic that the plaintiffs demanded a jury trial.
And would anyone dare to “tort reform” these Catholic institutions out of that right? Would anyone dictate to federal courts how they’re supposed to handle these cases, like many want to do with health care-related lawsuits in a federal medical malpractice law?
Maybe these suits will remind Americans that the Founders designed the civil justice system, and protected the right to a civil jury trial, for all causes and all cases. They didn’t treat lawsuits to protect religious liberty any differently than tort claims over personal injury, and neither should we.