The 7th Amendment states:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right to 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.
Now, some folks dont like the 7th Amendment and its guarantee to a jury trial. They want to pick and choose the Constitutional Amendments they like and disregard the rest. I imagine those are the same folks we all know that pick out the parts of the Bible they like… and disregard the rest. It is not very American to disregard parts of the Constitution, and its not very Christian to disregard parts of the Bible.
I am a conservative that believes in the Constitution, and that includes the 7th Amendment. It was easy to guess that about me if you knew I spent 22.5 years in the United States Marine Corps before retiring in 2006, however, as I am also one of those dreaded "trial lawyers," I often get tarred and feathered by folks who don’t understand what I do, and why it is important .
I find those critical to the right by trial by jury have failed to have looked at the issue, and just accept media hype as fact for their position. This belief in media hype can effect conservatives as well as liberals. It is our job as citizens to do a little more work before swallowing any pundits’ views hook, line and sinker. As we said in the Marine Corps, freedom isn’t free. Sometimes you have to work for it, and sometimes more than just work is required.
Recently Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party Nation, took a look at the 7th Amendment which guarantees our right under the Constitution to a jury trial. I believe Mr Phillips position makes sense, and his conclusion – after looking at the facts – may have even surprised him.
Mr. Phillips, stated:
What good is a right if you cannot exercise it? That is not one of those, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound questions. Our Constitutional rights are under assault from various sources. Those who want to attack our rights have learned they can never get those rights repealed, so instead they simply try to make it impossible for those rights to be exercised.
What is the latest right that is under assault?
The left came up with an idea a while back. They realized they could never repeal the 2nd Amendment or impose gun control laws, so they came up with alternative strategies such as trying to force gun manufacturers out of business or trying to tax ammunition to the point where no one could afford to have a gun.
Now, there is another assault on our Constitutional rights. This one is on our 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial.
Mitt Romney in his economic plan says he wants to impose Federal Tort Reform through out the nation. Ignoring the fact that is a gross violation of the 10th Amendment, since the regulation of lawyers and tort law has always been reserved for the states, let’s ask a more obvious question.
Where that has been tried, how is that working out?
It has been tried in Texas and the answer is, it is creating a hollow liberty. It does not eliminate a right but little way for the average citizen to exercise that right.
Many statists claim tort reform in Texas has been a huge success.
Unfortunately, as with so many things, they make the claim but there is no evidence to back that claim.
There is evidence to the contrary, that Texans are losing their 7th Amendment rights because they can’t get lawyers to take cases anymore.
What happened to Charles Caldwell is a terrible example of what has gone wrong. Caldwell suffered from Parkinson’s disease and went to a nursing home after surgery to recover. Among other things, a feeding tube was placed in his stomach because he could no longer swallow.
His son and daughter in law Bill and Kelly Putnam were visiting his father when the nurses at Signature Pointe Nursing home tried to give medications to Caldwell through his feeding tube. When the medicine did not go down the right way, the nurses tried the old fashioned method of “if it doesn’t go, force it.” After three tries it did not go. Finally Caldwell began to struggle and thrash. The medicine had gone into his lungs instead of going into his stomach. Caldwell drowned on medicine in front of his family.
When Putnam decided he was going to sue over his father’s death, he found the hard truth about Tort Reform. No lawyer would take the case. It was not that it was not a strong case. It was a strong case. Simply put, because of Tort Reform lawyers can no longer take those types of cases because they are no longer economically viable for the lawyers.
In plain non-lawyer English, these type cases now cost more to pursue than an attorney can make off it.
Some people are immediately outraged at the idea that lawyers are making money off of cases like this.
One of the first rules of economics is that we all operate in our enlightened self-interest. We wall all act for what we perceive as personal gain.
Doctors do the same thing. Most doctors become doctors because it remains the highest paid occupation in the United States.
By imposing caps on so-called “non-economic” damages, lawyers can no longer take these types of cases. Lawyers have staffs they have to pay. They have expenses such as the costs of their offices. Plus in cases such as these, the lawyer will advance the costs for expenses such as the required experts who must review cases before a suit is filed.
Without a lawyer, the 7th Amendment Right to a jury trial is effectively gone.
The right to a jury trial is arguably the right our founding fathers thought was the most important.
Because our founding fathers decide to included it in not one but two amendments to the Bill of Rights. The 7th Amendment, the right to a civil jury trial, was the only amendment to the Constitution that was approved unanimously by our founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Recently in Texas, a horrible story came to light. A doctor, Ricardo Rocha, how had previously had his medical license suspended, was accused of “butchering” a patient.. He decided to perform a hernia surgery on a man in his office, without an anesthesiologist present.
In this “operation,” the doctor instead of repairing the hernia, the doctor severed the patient’s colon. It caused the patient extreme pain, spilled fecal matter into his body, cause the loss of a testicle and required emergency surgery to save the man’s life.
Here is the question for each of you. If you go through something like that, what is your pain and suffering worth? In Texas, those kind of non-economic damages are limited to $250,000.
If that happened to you, is it worth $250,000?
The myth of tort reform is that it will reduce costs and will attract doctors to the profession. Unfortunately as with all myths, that one is untrue. Healthcare costs in Texas have not been reduced, nor are doctors flocking to Texas.
What has happened is that another right has been lost. Freedom is reduced and liberty has taken another step towards becoming simply a hollow shell.
The 7th Amendment right to a jury trial IS a Constitutional right. It is easy to say that the jury system has been abused, but when you need it, if you need it, you want your full rights. EVERY right. You want justice based on your facts and what has happened to you, not the facts pre-judged by a legislature in some far away capital. Legislators who have been swayed by some high dollar corporate lobbyist who decided in advance what is best for the corporation, not the citizen. Big jury awards only happen in the worst of all cases, and happen rarely. When you need help the most is when this insidious attack on your rights impacts you, your friends, and your family. Become informed and fight for your rights, fight for your children’s rights, and support ALL the Amendments to the Constitution.
The post by Mr. Phillips can be found HERE