It began as a run-of-the-mill age discrimination case, a test of wills between a fired supervisor named Roger Reeves, and a company in Columbus, Miss., that manufactures more than 20,000 toilet seats a day.

Reeves won before a jury, but a federal appeals court overturned its verdict, propelling the case to the U.S. Supreme Court for an examination of fundamental Seventh Amendment issues that could affect all civil litigation, as well as statutory issues that could influence all employment discrimination cases based on federal law. Yes, the Seventh Amendment, the right to jury trials in civil cases that almost never gets a workout before the Supreme Court — even though it is the wellspring of civil litigation.

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