"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
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