The importance of the right to a jury trial cannot be underestimated. In fact, the right to a jury trial was of such importance that its infringement by the King’s forces in Colonial America was one of the causes of the Revolution. The right was so critical that its addition in the Bill of Rights was necessary in order that the US constitution be accepted and ratified. The right to a jury trial can be found in the text of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. You can read the text here. Similar provisions are also contained in Alabama and various other state constitutions. So you might be wondering, what makes the right to a jury trial so special?
The jury itself is what makes the right to a jury trial so special. In order to serve on a jury you don’t have to be an influential politician. You don’t have to be rich or famous or have some time of special status or credentials. At trial, one’s case can be heard by a jury of all different types of people, fulfilling their civic duty. The common sense and good judgment of local citizens has historically and even today served as counterweight to potential overreaching and callousness of powerful institutions and corporations.
Historical experience around the world has shows that dictators and despots fear the people’s right to jury trial and have sought to abolish or limit it in seeking their path to power.
While the jury system isn’t perfect and isn’t allowed in all types of cases, it does provide a safeguard against abuse of power. The idea is that people can receive a fair trial from an impartial jury comprised of people from all different walks of life rather than leaving a decision in the hands of a single judge. That is a noble and realistic goal that has survived for a long time and should continue to be a critical component of our judicial system.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.