“In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty
dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved and no fact tried by a jury
shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than
according to the rule of law.” 7th Amendment
“Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of
liberty. Without them, we have no other fortification against being ridden
like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and
clothed like swine and hounds.” John Adams, 1774
Our 7th Amendment right to trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans. Often overlooked, it is the one right that ensures that we can challenge the government when other rights are threatened and we can hold wrongdoers accountable when they harm us physically or financially.
Our civil courts keep us safe and hold those who hurt us accountable.
Our civil courts ensure that when we are harmed physically or financially that we can receive justice — even when taking on the most wealthy and powerful individuals, companies and the government. Our courtrooms are the one place where we are all equal. Civil laws protect us from cheating and financial fraud, physical injury, dangerous products and toxins, violations of our civil rights and more. They also protect our businesses when other businesses fail to meet contractual obligations, their trade secrets are stolen, unfair competition, etc. Our courts hold these wrongdoers accountable and compensate us for our losses. This ensures that the financial burden is placed with the responsible party, not shifted onto other businesses and taxpayers.
Our civil courts protect us from government abuses.
If the government oversteps its boundaries and imposes unconstitutional laws or threatens our rights, the one place where the average citizen can challenge the government is in our courtrooms. Why? Because in our courts, you are equal to the government itself. If you don’t have access to our civil courts, there is nothing to stop the government from trampling our constitutional rights — even those preserved in the Bill of Rights. Our government can run unchecked and unchallenged. That’s the real meaning behind Shakespeare’s line, “First let’s kill all the lawyers” (Henry VI, Part II). If there are no lawyers and we don’t have access to our courtrooms, we can’t hold the government accountable.
Our civil courts are the basis for the free market.
A free market economy is central to our economic freedom. As noted economist Milton Friedman stated, “We have learned about the importance of private property and the rule of law as a basis for economic freedom . . . It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic that privatization. Privatization is meaningless if you don’t have the rule of law.” Businesses that cheat or cut corners get an unfair advantage over their responsible competitors. West Virginia’s courts discourage these abuses by holding bad businesses accountable financially. The costs for their bad behavior should not be shifted to responsible businesses and taxpayers. The court system is local and efficient, and it reduces the need for excessive and expensive government regulation.
Our civil courts play a critical role in protecting your, your family and our small businesses. They protect us when corporate wrongdoing results in physical and financial harm. They protect us from abuses by our own government. As important as the 7th Amendment is, it is too often forgotten ignored or forgotten by most Americans until they are harmed and need our civil justice system. We must fight to protect our 7th Amendment rights with the same focus and determination used when we protect our 1st, 2nd or 4th amendment rights. As former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted, “The right to trial by jury in civil cases at common law is fundamental to our history and jurisprudence. A right so fundamental and sacred to the citizens should be jealously guarded.”