7th Amendment – What does that mean?

The First 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  There is often discussion and debate about what these amendments mean. Without bringing a political view and without giving legal advice, below is the text of the 7th Amendment and some commentary on it.

Amendment VII: 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.”

While many people this right is for a trial to be determined by a jury of peers, that is not what this amendment is about. The 7th Amendment is about the right to preserve a trial by jury in certain situations.

In 1916 The U.S. Supreme Court did not require that civil trials have a jury, when they ruled on Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v. Bombolis. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a jury may determine liability if the Government issues a civil monetary penalty a jury trial is not required when (Tull v. United States, 481 US 412 (1987)). The U.S. Federal Government has issues documents about the trial by jury in civil cases to help try and define when and what a jury is allowed to rule on in civil matters.

Surprisingly, only about 1% of civil trials ever make it to a jury. Many are decided by a judge, arbitration, mediation, or the parties settle. Many outside of the law are also surprised to know that only about 3% of cases ever make it to trial with most being settled or plea bargains reached prior to that stage.


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