The right to trial by jury in civil cases is so important that our forefathers insisted in including it in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, one of the main grievances leading up the American Revolution was the unfair treatment of the colonies with respect to jury trials. In England, judges were viewed as subjects to the King, which often resulted in biased and unfair results, but citizens were protected by the jury trial. But in King George III abolished the jury trial in the colonies, leaving colonists subject to the decisions of corrupt judges who served at the pleasure of the king.
Civil jury trials are becoming rare in Texas.
The right to have disputes decided by a panel of fellow citizens is cited in the Declaration of Independence and explicitly confirmed in the constitutions of Texas and the United States.
But new statistics show that the right to “trial by jury” is quietly and steadily disappearing.
The 1,195 jury trials conducted in 2011 are one-third the number held in 1996, according to the Texas Administrative Office of Courts. during the same period, the number of lawsuits rose 25 percent.
In 1996, juries decided one out of every 48 lawsuits filed. Last year, only one in 183 new civil complaints resulted in jury verdicts.
Experts say that there are three things that have contributed to this huge slide. First, the Texas legislature passed significant tort reform measures. Second, the Texas Supreme Court has become more pro-defense. Third, courts have issued a series of decisions that shifted questions previously considered to be questions for the jury to questions to be decided by judges.
We’re doing what we can to reverse this trend. While the deck is stacked against us by these three factors, we’ll continue to file lawsuits, set cases for trial, and try those cases that can’t be resolved. We just hope other attorneys will do the same.
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