Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg frequently reminds his clients that the heart of our civil justice system has deep roots from the inception of our nation. Protecting a client’s right to a jury trial is as important as vigorously pursuing a fair recovery in an individual case. In our office, we are fortunate to have Jose De la Torre, a Ph.D. applicant in history. He penned the following post regarding the jury system and will be contributing to our content from a “historical” perspective.
Have you ever wondered where and how our jury system began? The Honorable Randall Shepard has written an article describing our history and reform of the jury trial system. In it, he went back to the early Athenians, and their large citizen panels, to demonstrate the rudimentary form of our modern jury trial system. More importantly, he presented history from the founding of our country to demonstrate why we value it so highly. The inclusion of jury trials as a grievance in the Declaration of Independence, as a right in all state constitutions after the Revolution, Article III, and the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, demonstrate why the Revolution was fought to preserve this right.
It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, though. Shepard also addressed the modern jury system and reforms made to improve “the experience of participating in a trial [which had] become a chore.” He noted Arizona and New York as examples of states which reformed to improve the jury experience. During the late 20th century, it became easy to declare a mistrial because of jury deadlock, but Arizona changed that by allowing jurors to ask more questions to lawyers, and even request new evidence to consider. Doing this dropped the number of mistrials considerably.
Unlike Las Vegas, what happened in courts didn’t stay in courts. The press has spread the word on these reforms, which in turn has given the jury experience a more positive outlook, increasing jury summon responses. Both history and the modern jury experience shows us that the jury trial system is not a static, rigid institution unwilling to change. Like much of our republic since its formation, it has shown itself capable of adapting to the unforeseeable changes of the future.