What Happened to the 7th Amendment?

The Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guaranteed the right to a trial by jury in civil cases where the disputed amount exceeds $20. It states further: “no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

I stumbled upon this fact as I was preparing to be the merit badge counselor for our local Boy Scouts troop. I have been practicing law for 15 years – I somehow lost site of this most basic right.

In Texas, our Constitution includes a Bill of Rights too; It states:

SEC. 15. The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. The Legislature shall pass such laws as may be needed to regulate the same, and to maintain its purity and efficiency.

These rights have eroded with activist judges, lobby-controlled legislatures peddling “tort reform.” What these judges and legislatures have done is made a statement that juries are not smart enough to serve. That is what is going on.

So, whether in a civil trial where the “gatekeeper” judge limits testimony, witnesses, or trials altogether; whether it be in lenient positions on arbitration and appraisal clauses; judges and legislatures are usurping these basic Constitutional rights from the People.

SMU law school released studies in early 2000s indicated that appellate courts are doubling the rate of reversals of trial verdicts. It leads some members of the public wondering why bother serving if judges are going to change the opinion anyway.

If you are asked to serve, remember, you are doing a service that few people in the world get to do. You are given power that few people in the world have. And your service was thought about and planned for by the Founders of this Great Nation.