The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging many of our fundamental institutions. Among them, criminal and civil jury trials, the bedrock of the American system of justice, are now indefinitely suspended in the state and federal courts. During the impending period of a “new normal,” how are we going to assure that the touchstone of our judicial system remains uncompromised as the fundamental guarantee of equal justice and protection from government overreach?
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” It is a declaration voiced by many over the years, including former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who observed: “The right to trial by jury in civil cases at common law is fundamental to our history and jurisprudence. A right so fundamental and sacred to the citizens should be jealously guarded.
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