Juries are in crisis. The jury trial exists today unloved, neglected, and largely avoided in legal practice. Procedural barriers and civic apathy have combined to gut one of the central tenets of America’s constitutional structure.
The civil jury trial is dying. In federal courts, less than 1% of civil cases are resolved before a jury. In state courts, the percentage of jury trials is only slightly higher. Lawyers can leave law school, make partner, and become a judge without ever trying a case before a jury. Arbitration, mediation, and settlement dominate litigation practice. Take a look at almost any long form contract (from your smartphone to your rental car agreement) and you (and everyone you know) likely will have signed away the right to a jury trial. Fine print waivers have shifted a system of public justice to a process of private settlements. And, even if you retain the right to sue, you still face daunting odds overcoming legal roadblocks (narrowed pleading and class action rules) and financial realities (lawyers cost more money than most law students can afford). Going to trial is simply not an option for most individuals. Continue reading “What Every Harvard Law Student Should Know About Juries”