Welcome to a new website designed to inform Americans and influence policymakers about one of our basic Constitutional rights and the efforts to degrade that right. We want to educate the public and policymakers on the centuries-long history of the right enunciated in the 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to a jury trial for civil suits, the accelerating erosion of our 7th Amendment rights, and the current issues illustrating the problem and need for restoration of the Founders’ original intent. A string of court decisions and political developments are aimed at limiting the jurisdiction of the courts in civil suits; either limiting the role of the jury in civil suits or eliminating the jury altogether in favor of federal regulators through preemption; and/or unilaterally imposing onerous filing burdens on plaintiffs. Too often, discussions of these issues are trapped in the swirl of partisan politics without reference to the basic right, for which our ancestors fought and died for centuries, to seek redress over a civil wrong before a jury of peers. The limitation of Americans’ 7th Amendment rights has practical implications for efforts in a broad range of activities, from the prevention of illegal discrimination and protection of religious liberty, to ensuring the safety of consumer products, and even battling international terrorism.
The vast majority of Americans apparently don’t realize that the right to a civil trial by jury has its roots in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments drafted by Founding Father James Madison of Virginia, proposed to the states in 1789, and ratified in 1791. Madison drafted the Bill of Rights, including the 7th Amendment, in response to objections by delegates to the Constitutional Convention that the new Constitution did not protect certain basic human rights. The right to a civil trial by jury has its roots in almost 800 years of English law and is a corollary to the right to a criminal trial by jury. Article 39 of the Magna Carta, signed in 1215, can be translated as, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” With the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the United States built upon the Magna Carta and expressly limited the powers of the sovereign in favor of the protection of “unalienable,” meaning God-given, individual rights. The degradation of any Constitutional right enunciated in the Bill of Rights threatens the entire superstructure of American Constitutional law and individual rights.
We will mix the historical precedent with the current outcome, the theoretical basis with the practical impact. We will quote the Founding Fathers, legal scholars, advocates of open access to civil justice in accordance with the 7th Amendment, and knowledgable political figures. We will put our readers on notice about upcoming events, pending legislation, and judicial decisions. I would welcome additional Contributing Experts and invite anyone with expertise who would post often here to contact me. I’ll also post guest articles and invite your submissions. We’ll have Twitter and Facebook pages available to post quick announcements and build an online community.
This website is my idea and is personally designed and funded, with no impetus or influence from consulting clients or any entity. The views and information expressed here are solely the responsibility of the Contributing Experts who post here and myself. My bio, including a description of my consulting business, can be found by clicking the “About” tab, but in summary, I am a lifetime Republican and a “Constitutional conservative.” I served as a political appointee of the Reagan Administration from 1983 until 1988; was a Republican counsel on Capitol Hill; and was nominated by President George W. Bush for a Presidential appointment, from which I withdrew after a Senate hearing. I’m dedicated to promoting the original intent of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and this website will serve that purpose. I look forward to your reasonable comments and suggestions.