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John Bair
John Bair
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The Vanishing Jury Conundrum

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On July 4th, 1776, when our beloved United States of America declared its independence from the tyranny of King George III and the imperial oppression of Great Britain, one of our primary objections to the rule of the crown was the lack of access to trial by jury.

This belief in the importance of juries to the civil justice process was later codified as part of our national identity when Thomas Jefferson announced the adoption of the 7th Amendment in 1792.

And now? Due to a confluence of factors like the increasing cost of civil litigation and overarching apathy from a population that views jury duty as little more than an underpaid nuisance, this bedrock value of our country is eroding at an alarming rate.

Stephen Susman wants to change that.

Susman is a seasoned plaintiff’s lawyer who built a successful career around his passionate advocacy for civil justice and unflinching support of trial by jury. As the Wall Street Journal reports, he recently donated $2 million to fund a unique program at New York University School of Law. The goal of this program is to research and promote public discussion about the threat faced by jury trials in a legal landscape that finds them quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. Susman says:

“It occurred to me that most people who are not lawyers are unaware that jury trials are vanishing. We should not let this institution die quietly without asking questions.”

The project will span four years and draw on the combined expertise of jury specialists, academics, and various judges who will allow the testing of reforms in their courtrooms.

Personally, I’ll be following the progress of this project very closely. I believe deeply in the idea of justice delivered by a jury of one’s peers. In fact, it is this belief that led me to name my practice after the 7th Amendment. Our Founding Fathers did not hold a deep desire for this right by accident. They understood that a trial by jury should be an intrinsic right for all American citizens in civil trials and that a justice system that isn’t underpinned with vested involvement from society at large is one that puts itself at risk of losing its moral center.

I applaud the work of Susman, both what he’s done for his clients over the years and his initiation of this project. Regardless of what results from the efforts of those involved with this project, it is my opinion that the importance of trial by jury should always be a focal point of our legal system and I’m honored to add my voice of support to dedicated professionals like him.