Supreme Court finds 6-person jury law unconstitutional

By Ann Maher | Sep 26, 2016

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously found that a statute signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn which limited jurors in civil trials from 12 to six is unconstitutional.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously found that a statute signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn which limited jurors in civil trials from 12 to six is unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Rita Garman wrote the court's opinion, citing transcripts from debates of the state's 1970 constitutional convention showed that drafters "did not believe the legislature had the authority to reduce the size of a jury below 12 members and the drafters did not act to give the legislature such power."

The high court's 5-0 decision affirms Cook County Circuit Court Judge William Gomolinski who on Dec. 21, 2015, overturned Public Act 98-1132, finding that the law violated the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary.

Garman wrote that the court has "long included the 12-person size of a jury within its descriptions of the essential features of a jury trial."

She declared the entire act - which also included provisions for raising juror pay - to be invalid.

Justices Thomas Kilbride and Robert Thomas did not take part in the decision.

Democrat Quinn signed the bill in the waning days of his administration after losing to Republican Bruce Rauner in November 2014.

Republican lawmakers had opposed the measure, with one calling its enactment Quinn's "parting gift" to the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The organization, which lobbies for attorneys who commonly represent injury plaintiffs, was a strong proponent of the measure.

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