Reinvigorating and Enhancing Jury Trials Through an Overdue Jury Bill of Rights: A Federal Trial Judge’s View

Home / Print / 2016 / Reinvigorating and Enhancing Jury Trials Through an Overdue Jury Bill of Rights: A Federal Trial Judge’s View

Mark W. Bennett

Juries are deeply enshrined by the U.S. Constitution and firmly embedded in our system of justice. Thus, it is surprising that jurors do not yet have something akin to their own widely adopted bill of rights. Regrettably, this is the result of too many trial judges failing to practice WWJW—“what would jurors want”—a jury-centered approach to judging. The state of Arizona, with its launch in 1993 of the Arizona Jury Project, is the pioneering jurisdiction of a more jury-centered approach. If trial judges embraced WWJW it would engender greater respect for jurors and lead to trial innovations which would significantly enhance the juror experience. These innovations would also increase the fairness of jury trials. Adopting a bill of rights for jurors improves jurors’ positive experiences and feelings about trial by jury as they participate in the purest form of democracy in action. This article proposes a Juror Bill of Rights that has been proven to achieve these goals. If adopted by courts and practiced by trial judges, jurors across the nation will exit courthouses as our greatest community ambassadors for the Sixth and Seventh Amendment rights to trial by jury. This is an important step to ensuring that vanishing civil jury trials are not, going, going, gone!

Full Article