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The Decline of the Civil Jury


The Decline of the Civil Jury book jacket View Table of Contents and Introductory Material
ISBN978-0-89089-948-9

The Decline of the Civil Jury

by Ellen E. Sward

2001 $40.00 408 pp paper

Tags: Constitutional Law, Legal History, Political Science

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In this book, Sward addresses the effect on the jury of a number of small, seemingly isolated changes in the composition of the jury, the interpretation of the Constitution and laws governing the jury, as well as the relationship between judge and jury. He argues that the cumulative effect of these changes has resulted in a significant decline in the civil jury’s use and function. While the book acknowledges that there are understandable reasons why these changes have occurred, it urges that we step back from the headlong rush to jury “reform” and consider what we have done to the jury. Some changes that have occurred may be salutary, but others are surely detrimental to this Constitutional right. The book first examines historical and contemporary justifications for the civil jury, then looks at the jury’s history extending back 1000 years to Norman England. It then details significant twentieth-century changes in the jury’s milieu that make it more difficult for the jury to function. The result of these recent changes is that while the jury is nominally more available than it was in eighteenth-century England, it is also more controlled: judges have more opportunities to take cases from the jury and decide them themselves and more opportunities to shape the jury’s verdict. This book will be of particular interest to teachers of law, history, and political science; to lawyers; and to policy-makers at both the state and federal level. General readers who are curious about this important governmental institution will also find it informative.

“[Along with] thought-provoking ideas about jury reform, the book contains numerous footnotes, an excellent bibliography, and a good index. It is must reading for anyone interested in civil juries in the U.S., and recommended for lower-division undergraduates through professionals and practitioners.” — CHOICE Magazine, April 2002


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