Tuesday, September 21, 2010

US Constitution Series, Amendment VII

Amendment VII. Civil Trials

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 rules of the common law.
There is no right to trial by jury in all federal civil cases, as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Granfinanciera v. Norberg, 492 U.S. 33, 109 S., Ct. 2782 (1989). According the cases, the right to trial by jury is civil cases in federal courts only exists where that right existed in the common law. The jury trial exists in cases "at law" meaning where money damages are sought, but not "in equity" cases to force someone to take or not take some action (e.g., injunction). There is no right to jury trial in administrative hearings.

Also, the courts must give the same deference to a jury's factual findings as was given at common law. Thus it is very difficult to overturn a jury verdict in a civil case based upon a disagreement on the greater weight of the evidence.

This amendment is not binding on the state courts. It has never been incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment bundle of due process rights that are binding on the states.

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