The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution

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Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution


7th Amendment to the Constitution


The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution was primarily designed to preserve and protect the rights of Americans to have a trial by jury in ordinary civil law suits. It states: “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

Yet your critical Seventh Amendment right – to have a jury trial – now is being threatened by big banks, big corporations, big insurance companies, and their lobbyists.

They want to deprive you of the right to have a jury trial. Why? Taking $20 here and $100 there – such as by adding unwarranted charges, paying only part of an insurance claim, selling you a defective or dangerous product or drug – can add up to billions of dollars for them when millions of consumers are involved. Without the right to a trial by jury, you lose all your rights.

Taking away your right to a jury trial enables big companies to get away with whatever they want to do, and often leaves consumers with no effective remedy. How have big corporations and their allies been chipping away at your right to have a jury trial?
  • They add language, printed in tiny type, to those multi-page inserts to your bank statements, credit card bills, phone bills, and the like that try to take away the right to have a jury trial.
  • They try to prevent you from combining your small claim with that of the many other consumers they are taking advantage of in a similar manner, long before you could even be aware that they have been taking advantage of you.
  • They try to make you travel long distances should you want to assert a claim.
  • They may require you agree to submit any claim that may ever arise to “arbitration” -- using rules that were bent to favor them, and give consumers a stacked deck of arbitrators to select among.
  • They try to limit the damages you can recover, so even though everyone knows you’ve been ripped off, it’s not worth any one person’s while to pursue.
  • They assure Governmental agencies won’t be able to help by having their lobbyists slash budgets of consumer protection agencies, rendering the Food and Drug Administration an ineffective shell.
  • They try to have their lobbyists encourage laws that immunize them.
  • They make huge contributions to politicians to enact laws that purport to make binding all that stuff in the fine print that you never discussed, never read, couldn’t understand, and never would have agreed to.
The big companies argue “what’s the big deal? What difference is there if a case is heard by a judge or an arbitrator instead of a jury of your peers?” They claim jury trials are expensive and outmoded. Why not let a judge, or administrative agent, or arbitrator make the decision.

The Framers of the Constitution were Patriots and they added the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution in 1791 because they knew that the right to a jury trial makes a critical difference. They knew that the best people to judge the facts is a jury of your peers, not someone so high and mighty as to be out of touch, or concerned about currying favor with a party or special interest that was instrumental in appointing them a judge or selecting them as arbitrator. The Founders knew ordinary Americans could not get a fair shake unless they had the right to a trial by jury.

It’s always been possible to waive a jury, and the Framers understood that. But it's not always been possible to waive the rights to a jury trial in advance. A decision to waive a trial by jury, or select a trial before a single judge or by an arbitrator and the rules that should be followed only should be permitted to be made after the claim arises in consumer related matters, not before. That's big business taking advantage of consumers for their own profit and greed. Getting consumers to waive the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial in advance gives big companies -- such as banks, lenders, insurers, phone companies, hospitals, drug and medical device manufacturers, a license to do financial and other harm to consumers and avoid the consequences.

The Framers knew access to the courts is important, and that rights mean nothing if you can’t enforce them. You can't enforce rights if you're forced to travel thousands of miles to do so. You can't enforce rights if you can only appear before a judge or arbitrator who will be biased in the other side's favor. That’s why the Framers added the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, and why it has been so important for over 200 years. A citizen’s ability to get satisfaction means nothing if as a practical matter he or she can’t assert his rights, if the person making the decision is biased, or if the rules were drawn up to be unfair to the other side.

Similarly, if lots of identical small claims can’t be combined, big companies know they can get away with whatever they want – they know it’s not worth anyone’s while, time and effort to have to individually sue a credit card company just for the unwarranted late fee, or to go after the insurance company that lops $25 from everyone's payment, even though it does the same thing to just about everyone else. especially if the tribunal is far away or dominated by the person who ripped you off.

The Seventh Amendment is important. Protect the Seventh Amendment, because it should be protecting you.



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