In various posts since the inception of the 7th Amendment Advocate website, I've addressed the relevance of the right to have a civil suit heard before a jury in the context of individual issues of importance to Tea Partiers, Constitutional conservatives and Republicans.
This centuries-old right, recognized since the Magna Carta in 1215, has been under attack for decades and is now, I assert, the least known and most endangered of the ten Constitutional amendments in the Bill of Rights.
Here's a simple summary of reasons why those groups, my ideological brethren (and in the case of Republicans, my sometime employer), should back an unhindered right to a jury trial for civil suits:
1. CIVIL SUITS CAN KILL OBAMACARE: The Republicans and Tea Partiers are rightly cheering on those state Attorneys General who have sued in federal court to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. But it's rather disingenous to trash trial lawyers and then turn around and enthusiatically back the anti-ObamaCare lawsuits filed by a state's top official trial lawyer. At least it guarantees that we won't hear anyone of either party refer to the state AG suits as "junk lawsuits" and trash the AGs as "power-greedy trial lawyers."
2. CIVIL SUITS PROTECT THE UNBORN & WOMENS' HEALTH: I posted in August 2010 that trial lawyers have assisted the pro-life and womens' health causes for decades, by pursuing dangerous abortifacients, and unsafe drugs, and defective medical devices, all approved by a FDA asleep at the switch. And civil suits will be the last line of defense for champions of the unborn against the next wave of abortifacient techonology.
3. CIVIL SUITS PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, GUN RIGHTS & PROPERTY OWNERS: The 7th Amendment is the "sword and shield" enabling us to defend our religious liberty against government interference and intolerant institutions, e.g., pompous and overbearing university administrators. The Alliance Defense Fund successfully reversed attempts at university firings in the Howell and Sheldon cases by first suing the respective universities, and ADF prevents many other illegal actions just by threatening a suit. I didn't see anyone cracking on them as "sharks" and decrying their filings as "junk lawsuits."
And of course, it took two civil lawsuits, filed by Americans exercising their 7th Amendment rights, to finally ensure that the correct, Constitutionally conservative view of the Second Amendment is the law of the land. Meanwhile, local governments try to use eminent domain often to take over private property - what would happen if their actions were impervious to legal challenge?
4. CIVIL SUITS PUNISH TERRORIST FINANCIERS: As I posted in June 2010, the 7th Amendment has been an important tool for the pursuit of terrorist financing, and civil lawsuits have resulted in some important judgments. The family of David Boim, an American killed by Hamas terrorists in Israel, successfully won a $156 million judgment against the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for its role as the biggest Hamas fundraiser in the U.S. And terrorism victims' attorneys from the Motley Rice law firm (one of my consulting clients), who are pursuing the Arab Bank in a civil suit for its alleged role as a conduit for terrorist funds, were able to access information gathered by Israeli intelligence for presentation when the case comes before a jury, hopefully soon.
A former official of the NSC under Presidents Clinton and Bush testifed to Congress that, "civil litigation can substantially enhance the financial consequences that such entities face" (referring specifically to terrorist financiers).
5. THE 7TH AMENDMENT REPRESENTS A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND ISLAMIC SHARIAH LAW: As I posted in August 2010, there are never any juries under Islamic shariah law for any case, civil or criminal - 800 years of American constitutional and Western jurisprudence go down the tubes, and a local imam picks the winner. The results are not just primitive, but barbarous, especially for women.
6. LIMITING CIVIL JUSTICE EMPOWERS JUDGES, BUREAUCRATS & "RULING CLASS," AND DEGRADES LOCAL CONTROL: We already see a chasm between the ruling class and the rest of the country along numerous political and social fault lines. Federally imposed limits on the civil justice process, such as the preemption of state statutory and common law for certain claims or restrictions in federal civil pleading standards, only cede more power to the judiciary and federal bureaucrats. Putting complete control over certain products or services (e.g., implantable medical devices or financial services) in the hands of federal bureaucrats (the FDA or Treasury, respectively), with total immunity for the companies involved, is simply not the system of justice that the Founding Fathers intended to build.
To reiterate what another conservative said, "The tort system promotes local control. Through the jury system, people at the local level decide what is reasonable behavior within their own communities. Ordinary citizens, applying a common sense standard of reasonable care, making decisions about acceptable and unacceptable conduct within their community - that is the essence of local government. And, as a result of those decisions, suppliers of goods and services within the marketplace will often modify their own behaviors... without the necessity of yet another costly and intrusive governmental bureaucracy..."
7. MOST IMPORTANTLY: BECAUSE THE FOUNDING FATHERS SAID IT'S A PRIORITY FOR ALL AMERICANS: There is no question that the Founding Fathers - from Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton, to John Adams, to George Mason, all explicitly said that citizens have the right to have their claims against their neighbors heard by a jury of their peers. It's mentioned in the Declaration of Indepedence and was protected in the first Virginia Declaration of Rights.
Promoting the 7th Amendment is the "right" thing to do to avoid being a political hypocrite of the type that Tea Partiers want to remove from power. Republicans and Tea Partiers uphold the 1st Amendment in the face of a biased and inaccurate media elite, and we defend the 2d Amendment in the face of serial shooters.
We should protect and promote the 7th Amendment at all times as we do all other Amendments in the Bill of Rights.