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The Right to a Trial by Jury

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I. The Right to a Trial by Jury: The Threat of Extinction, Limited Availability & Reduced Effectiveness Contrary to what may be a common public perception, jury trials are a dying breed in America. Jury trials have been declining steadily for the past thirty years. “If the trend continues, within the foreseeable future, civil jury trials in America may eventually become…extinct.” This may seem surprising because the U.S. Constitution ensures the right to a jury trial in criminal trials under the 6th Amendment and in civil trials through the 7th Amendment. The reality, however, is that parties are finding more effective, faster, and more cost-effective means of adjudicating legal disputes through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) forums that are evolving to an ever-increasing degree. The American Jury Project (AJP) of 2005, a national symposium of the American Bar Association, was held to establish the standards and principles for juries and jury trials. Principle 1 states that “the right to a jury trial should be preserved; however, the lack of available jurors and the rules and procedures used in the jury selection process have reduced its effectiveness and have made this means of seeking justice a slow, unpredictable, and expensive gamble that is driving parties to seek ADR through other forums. One author described a powerful contradiction in the jury system that confronts people in America: “We love the idea of the jury but hate the way it works. We celebrate the juror’s democratic power but no longer trust the decisions they reach. We say we have the best system in the world, but when called to serve, most of us do everything we can to duck out.” Owing to the fact that the right to a jury trial is enshrined in the Constitution and is a time-honored component of the American Court System, the following discussion explores methods...

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