Stuart N. Ratzan on “The Power and Importance of the American Jury”
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America, with intelligence and sophistication, recognized from the outset the power and importance of the American Jury. These men were, by and large, from an elite class of wealth and power. Yet they understood that providing checks and balances, through a democracy that rested much of its power on the common citizen, was essential in order for fairness and freedom to endure. Else, the elite classes would usurp power and alienate the common man. While this may be of short term benefit to the elite class, in the long run the political unrest it would cause would ultimately undo society, threaten the wealth and station of the elite classes, and be no good for anyone. The only way to ensure fairness and freedom in society was for the elite classes to ceded power to the common man. This was the enduring principle of democracy.
There was no more profound and important instrument for the preservation of democracy, for the entrustment of power in the hands of the common man, than the America jury. In our democracy, we have judicial branch of government that leaves most disputes to the better judgment of average citizens. Rather than rest the power in the laps of the elite classes, our form of government trust common men and women to decide cases of great importance, transferring large sums of money, or rights, or freedom.
But over the past several decades, many in the elite classes, including most corporations and insurance companies, have been hard at work seeking to eviscerate the power of the American Jury. Seeking to cap the amount of damages juries can award, eliminating certain kinds of evidence juries can consider, and otherwise close the courthouse doors on average Americans, corporate America and the American insurance industry are in search of immunity. Whereas Thomas Jefferson and his brethren had the courage to trust their fellow Americans, and whereas Jefferson and company recognized the value of trusting the citizenry, modern day corporate greed has obscured the more enlightened thinking prevalent in our country over 200 years ago.
With enough money and power, corporate America has reshaped the debate, convincing millions of Americans that neither they nor their neighbors can be trusted to do their job as jurors. This needs to stop. Democracy depends on a system that entrusts power and decision making to the people.