Charlotte, NC – “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.”
The 7A is remarkably unambiguous and has remained mostly unchallenged throughout time. The amendment guarantees a trial-by-jury for criminal cases and most civil cases as well. Notable exceptions to 7A protections are maritime law cases and some patent cases. However, for most scenarios, the 7A protects a US citizen’s right to trial-by-jury and prevents higher courts from overturning facts established in a jury case.
The Re-examination Clause guarantees that a higher-level court cannot overturn a decision made by a jury of one’s peers. However, we know that sometimes juries can be misleading and decisions can be, and should be, overturned.
For example, in NC, in the infamous Michael Peterson case, a judge ruled that in his 2003 murder trial a key witness had intentionally misled the jury and as a result, Mr. Peterson eventually entered a new plea deal that allowed him to leave custody (see the Netflix documentary The Staircase for more details). Mr. Peterson now resides freely in Durham, NC. A reexamination of the case, although it was tried by a jury, lead to a more just application of the law.
The 7A also highlights the influence of English common law on our modern criminal justice system. The “common law” is not a reference to the common laws of the US in the late 1700s, but rather to the English laws with which the Founders were most familiar. Progressives will tell you English common law was inherently racist and was grounded in white supremacy.
As such, no influence from the old, white, racist past should remain to be seen in our modern criminal justice system. However, it is the 7A that guarantees a trial-by-jury of one’s peers for all US citizens regardless of status, race, gender, or any other characteristic. It is conservatism that has maintained the most fair and just principles of English common law for our benefit today.
Although the straightforward text does not lend itself vulnerable to the cancer that is progressivism, the $20 clause has not been reexamined in over 200 years and could become a sticking point for a legal argument in the future. $20 in the year 1800 is approximately worth $300 today. The question is: is $20 today a fair threshold to demand the protection of a jury trial? If the legal fees requires to bring a case forward are in excess of $20 for a court proceeding, is justice even possible? It seems the $20 threshold is merely a nominal value so, periodically reexamining that number may not be a bad idea.
As with the first six amendments, the erosion of the freedom and justice guaranteed by the 7A will come by small and insidious attacks under the guise of progressivism. Attacks are sure to come on the legacy of English common law and its rightful place in the modern world. Progressives will also attack the stability of the Bill of Rights – calling it a living document that’s free to be changed to match our current values.
Soon, trials-by-jury will be deemed unnecessary since the jurors cannot maintain a safe social distance. And since $20 is such a small amount of money, why should we not just let a robber take the money without fear of prosecution? Oppression is surely the cause of all crime anyway. Besides, wouldn’t Jesus just give all of his money away to the poor and oppressed?
As you can see, the fabric of our nation is being torn apart by activism and progressivism. This November, it is imperative we elect conservative judges who will interpret the law as it is written. It is also important we elect sane and conservative legislators who will not abuse the constitution as the current members of Congress have abused it.
Finally, we must re-elect President Trump. He is certainly not the traditional conservative, but he will appoint conservative, non-activist judges to uphold the sacred laws of our land. Progressivism is a cancer, and it is time we start working to heal this nation from the effects of that dreaded disease.
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