In our Monday morning attorney meetings, I always ask the firm lawyers, ”who has a jury trial this week?”. Then, I ask those responding to describe their cases and the witness that they intend to call .
The day before trial, we usually get the jury panel listing that describes the jurors that will be hearing the case. Officially, everyone wants a fair and impartial jury. The reality is that you really want to pick jurors that will be fair and impartial… as they rule for your client!
In all of that, I am always thankful that we have the ability and right to try the case in front of a jury and not just in front of a judge. Out of 144 countries, we are the only country where juries determine justice.
The complete opposite of a jury trial is the form of “justice” that prevailed in France in the 14th century. It was called Lettre de cachet. French legal scholars described it as the ” king is an emperor in his own kingdom”. It was an order which contained the legal and permanent will of the king and affixed with the seal of state by the chancellor.
This order was used for determination of civil matters, but it was primarily used to initiate or imprison individuals. There was no legal mechanism for appeal. Probably the most bothersome part of this form of “justice” was that wealthy families or individuals could pay the king to issue these orders for wayward family members or for adversaries to be imprisoned. Money could truly buy “justice”.
Just another reminder of how fortunate we are to have a jury system. It is why Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that “justice by the people” is “the fundamental law of society” and that ”every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone”. (spoken by Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours in 1816)
And our pic o’ day:
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