Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Abstract

The role of the jury in awarding monetary damages to plaintiffs in a wide range of civil cases has captured the attention of the media, contemporary non-fiction writers, and reform-minded politicians in recent years. Particular attention has been focused on huge jury awards, which has led many commentators to criticize the wisdom of permitting juries to move so much money from one place to another. Although the right to a jury trial, and with it the exercise of broad judicial discretion, is constitutionally based, many reform efforts have moved toward removing juries from cases both as to the subject matter of cases and the amount of money they can award.

This article is an attempt to examine what reasonable reforms should be made to jury discretion, particularly with regard to the jury's consideration of punitive damages. My hope is to advance a process that will strike a balance between jury discretion and the valid concerns of those who perceive a need to protect against arbitrary and unfair damages verdicts. Others have also insightfully written in this area, but my approach builds on the structure for controlling jury discretion fashioned by the American Law Institute (“ALI”) in its important work dealing with capital juries.

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