A few weeks ago, in response to the President’s Weekly Radio Address, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) had some interesting comments about the importance of juries and our civil justice system in the “Republican Response”. Sessions, a former federal prosecutor had these comments to share with the American people:
“The brilliance of our legal system is that it places judgment in the hands of everyday citizens. Twelve complete strangers, from all walks of life, sit in a jury box, carefully weigh the evidence and then reach an impartial verdict…As a prosecutor I learned to trust the wisdom of these everyday citizens.”
The brilliance of a jury-based justice system is also something that our Constitution recognizes and protects for every citizen. The 7th Amendment grants the right to trial by jury and is the cornerstone of our civil justice system. Juries help to ensure fair and impartial trials—regardless of the parties involved—whenever someone is injured or harmed by another’s wrong doing. Because of the impartial role that juries play, throughout history, the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial has led to safer consumer products, increased work-place safety, and enhanced quality and safety in health care.
Those are important considerations to remember when the topic of tort reform comes up—as it often does these days. Tort reform challenges the very nature of our civil justice system, and perhaps most concerning of all, shifts protections away from the individual and in favor of big corporations. In fact, the campaign to limit Americans’ access to justice via tort reform is run by corporate front groups looking to undermine the civil justice system so negligent corporations can avoid accountability. The U.S. Chamber is the most active tort reform group on the state and national level, spending millions of dollars annually to destroy the legal system and prevent Americans from holding negligent corporations accountable.
All Americans should have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system – even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations or their front groups. That’s why it is important to our democracy and our society that the 7th Amendment is protected and that the civil justice system remains accessible to all citizens so that they can seek justice and accountability.