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The Missing American Jury
Restoring the Fundamental Constitutional Role of the Criminal, Civil, and Grand Juries

  • Date Published: June 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107055650

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  • Criminal, civil, and grand juries have disappeared from the American legal system. Over time, despite their significant presence in the Constitution, juries have been robbed of their power by the federal government and the states. For example, leveraging harsher criminal penalties, executive officials have forced criminal defendants into plea bargains, eliminating juries. Capping money awards, legislatures have stripped juries of their power to fix damages. Ordering summary judgment, judges dispose of civil cases without sending them to a jury. This is not what the founders intended. Examining the Constitution's text and historical sources, the book explores how the jury's authority has been taken and how it can be restored to its rightful, co-equal position as a 'branch' of government. Discussing the value of juries beyond the Constitution's requirements, the book also discusses the significance of juries world-wide and argues jury decision-making should be preferred over determinations by other governmental bodies.

    • Discusses how the authority of the jury has shifted to other parts of the government and why juries decide few cases
    • Shows the historically robust position of the three juries, allowing us to learn about the vibrant role they played in the past
    • Shows the jury as a co-equal of the branches and the states and encourages the reader to think about the jury and government in a different way
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'I strongly recommend this book. Professor Thomas shares the importance of our jury system. It's a right that you never think you will need … until you do.' Mark Cuban, entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank star

    'I have a great deal of respect for the work of American jurors, who are often the unsung heroes in our justice system. Professor Thomas highlights a very real problem - as the number of jury trials declines in favor of ever more specialist judges and alternative procedures, justice may not always be best served.' David Boies, runner-up for Time magazine Person of the Year, lawyer in Bush v. Gore

    'The Missing American Jury deserves attention from anyone concerned with the quality of civil and criminal justice in America today. Professor Thomas documents the decline in the use and power of criminal, civil, and grand juries and the adverse impact this has had on our processes of justice, and then presents a series of provocative proposals for restoring these juries to meaningful roles.' Wayne LaFave, Professor of Law, University of Illinois, author of Search and Seizure, cited by the US Supreme Court over 175 times

    'Thought-provoking and exhaustive, Professor Thomas's book takes us to first premises - the core of the right to a jury trial and its undermining by the courts in decisions big and small. It is an important work, a must-read for lawyers, students, citizens, and most important, judges!' Nancy Gertner, former federal judge, Senior Lecturer in Law, Harvard University

    'The Missing American Jury offers a compelling portrait of the disturbing decline of the American jury, and what can be done to save this cherished democratic institution … Professor Suja Thomas brilliantly integrates historic and legal sources along with empirical research to demonstrate the causes of the jury's decline. She then proposes a range of innovations designed to restore the jury's power, including informing judges about the reasoning behind jury verdicts and enlightening jurors about plea offers and sentencing … Anyone who cares about the future of trial by jury should read this book.' Valerie P. Hans, Professor of Law, Cornell University, co-author of American Juries: The Verdict

    '[T]he author makes the case that the jury has lost the fundamental role and power accorded to it by the Constitution and the English common law tradition. She deems this problematic because the erosion of the jury affords additional - and unconstitutional - power to the judiciary, legislature, and administrative agencies, thereby skewing the balance of powers … Not only does this veer from the original intent of the country's founders, but it also subverts the American justice system because jury trials have become less frequent, permitting judges to co-opt power previously reserved for juries … judges, legislators, and agencies have interests that may prejudice the outcomes of cases, while juries avert such biases because they are not swayed by money or elections. Verdict: this work is certain to enthrall legal scholars, particularly readers of Akhil Reed Amar's classics The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction and America's Constitution: A Biography.' The Library Journal

    'More than any other modern scholar, Suja Thomas has made the case for restoring the jury to its original role as a critical institution for the preservation of liberty and democracy. The Missing American Jury makes a powerful case that the original meanings of Article III and the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments have been ignored and distorted. This important book is essential reading for constitutional lawyers and scholars of both civil and criminal procedure.' Lawrence B. Solum, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Georgetown University, editor of the Legal Theory Blog

    'In recent years, Suja Thomas has provided a vitally important scholarly voice reminding us of the importance of the jury as part of our nation's adjudicatory structure. In this book, she makes her most important statement yet concerning the jury's centrality as part of the nation's government … This is a thoughtful and provocative book and while some may disagree with its conclusions, no one will dispute the significance of its scholarly contribution.' Martin Redish, Louis and Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy, Northwestern University

    'Suja Thomas's new book is a forceful effort to restore the jury to its rightful place in the apparatus of governance in the United States. She argues persuasively that the Supreme Court and a wide array of other forces and factors have unjustly marginalized the jury and have torpedoed its proper Constitutional functions. Her book is essential reading for legal historians and for all who are concerned by the diminished role of the jury in American society.' James Oldham, St Thomas More Professor of Law and Legal History, Georgetown University

    'The Missing American Jury has an ambitious normative aim: restoration of the jury to its rightful place as adjudicator of criminal and civil disputes and counterweight against an overweening state. In building its 'bridge to the 18th century,' though, this volume fails to introduce enough empirical evidence to show that juries historically played those roles.' J. D. Marshall, CHOICE

    'Suja A. Thomas … contends the jury should be viewed as a fourth branch of government equal to that of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. … The Missing American Jury leaves you certain that the jury must be restored to its original role as a powerful, necessary, and meaningful part of our government.' Eric W. Young, Law Library Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107055650
    • length: 262 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 3 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The missing American jury: an introduction
    Part I. The Jury Now:
    2. The fall of the criminal, civil, and grand juries and the rise of the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, and the states
    3. The missing branch
    Part II. The Future Jury:
    4. Interpreting jury authority
    5. Restoring the jury
    6. Beyond the constitution: affirming a role for lay jurors in America's government and world-wide
    7. A branch among equals in American democracy: a conclusion.

  • Author

    Suja A. Thomas, University of Illinois College of Law
    Suja A. Thomas is a professor of law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Her research on the jury has received extensive national attention.

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