Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2001

Abstract

There is no institution in the legal system more controversial than the American Jury. It has been praised and hated by people from all walks of life. James Madison once called it among "the most valuable" rights included in the Bill of Rights. Robert Allan Rutland, The Birth of the Bill of Rights 1776-1791, at 208 (2nd ed ., Northeastern Univ. Press 1991) (1955) (quoting 1 Annals of Cong. 755 (Joseph Gales ed., 1789)). The business community sometimes complains that it paralyzes its ability to grow. Politicians have used it as grist for their mills calling for jury reform. Television and movies have dramatized its workings so that people who have never actually served believe it to be a meaningless exercise. The public has largely rejected jury service as a major inconvenience.

One observer has reported that only about 45 percent of Americans who are sent jury notices actually appear at the courthouse. See Stephen J. Adler, The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom 220 (1994). In the internet age, websites ridicule the work of juries in an effort to show that it is a system prone to fail.

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