2008

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."

 

An Analysis of the 7th Amendment

The 7th Amendment is very unusual. It speaks to trials at Common Law (civil trials), rather than criminal trials. It states that in trials where the value of the potential award is greater than twenty dollars, the accused has the right to demand that they be tried by a jury; and that no facts tried by a jury shall be reconsidered in any court in the United States other than by the rules of common law.

What does this mean? It means that in any civil case where the potential award is more than twenty (20) dollars, the person who stands to lose the money has the right to insist that their case be heard by a jury. It also means that once this type of case is decided by a jury, it cannot be retried unless the rules of common law are upheld. The rules of common law are generally decided by either the States individually, or, in some cases, by local communities.

Why twenty dollars? The standard that money was based on then was the gold piece. The largest coin in circulation at the time was a twenty dollar gold piece. Oddly enough, the -current- standard of four hundred dollars for Small Claims Court is in line with that old standard, because the current value of a twenty dollar gold piece (barring collectibility) is about 400 dollars.

The Founding Fathers were concerned about preserving the rights of the accused in -all- cases. Despite the fact that they meant for local communities and/or the individual States to have the final say in all governmental matters, the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the people at large had the final say on individual rights. This amendment requires all States in the Union to protect the rights of their citizens in local and State civil trials.

A Modern 7th Amendment

In any civil case where any award can exceed twenty dollars, the accused shall have the right to have a trial by jury; and no facts brought up during a jury trial shall be looked at again unless the common law so states.

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