On the eve of Election Day, I am reminded of why we are so lucky to live in the United States. The founders of our country sought to protect our citizens from the type of tyranny previously imposed by British rule. Realizing that the Constitution left room for the government to overstep its boundaries, the Bill of Rights (and subsequent amendments) were drafted to afford U.S. citizens the rights and liberties our forefathers intended us to have.
We are all well-versed in some of the more frequently invoked amendments- freedom of religion, speech and the press, the right to peaceably assemble and the prohibition of governmental redress of grievances (1st Amendment); the right to bear arms (2nd Amendment); and of course, the right to vote (14th, 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments).
I would wager, however, that many people don't know what the Seventh Amendment is or why it is so important. The text reads,
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 re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Put simply, it provides U.S. citizens with the right to a civil trial by jury, with the assurance that the law will be preserved and that a decision by jury cannot be overturned by a judge or an appeal. This is essential to our basic rights, because it allows us the guaranteed right to a fair fight in cases such as:
- The case against BP for victims of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- The case against Bayer, the manufacturer of Yaz birth control, for serious side effects suffered by users of the pill
- The case against the New England Compounding Center, for the meningitis outbreak tied to steroid injections produced at their faciilty
The Seventh Amendment precludes corporations from using their financial and other resources to prevent justice from being served; it provides individual citizens equal footing with large corporations in a court of law.
As we prepare to head to the polls tomorrow, please let us remember that the representatives we put into office should be for the people. I urge you to research the candidates and vote for those whose track records demonstrate a true commitment to our rights.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).