Ken Connor

"[The right to trial by jury is] the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbors and equals." Sir William Blackstone, from Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765).

For many years now, America's civil justice system has been on the losing side of the public relations battle. From demonizing lawyers to ridiculing jurors, special interest groups (which include insurance conglomerates, drug companies, and big business cartels) have relentlessly pressured state and federal legislators to enact laws which carry out their agenda. These efforts have led to a myriad of proposed legislative "fixes" that are, ostensibly, aimed at increasing the fairness of our judicial process and lowering the cost of health care. The "solutions" proposed by legislators doing the bidding of these special interest groups include artificial caps on damages, draconian limits on liability, and dramatically shortened periods of time in which suits must be filed. Far from making the system more just and fair, these measures are aimed at insulating wrongdoers from full accountability for their actions while preventing injured parties from obtaining complete redress for the harms they have suffered.

Ironically it is the Republican Party (of which this writer is presently an embarrased member) that is often found leading the charge for "civil justice reform." These self-proclaimed "defenders of the Constitution" have no use for the Seventh Amendment, which protects the right to trial by jury in civil cases. And they pay only lip service to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which are aimed at protecting the rights of the people and the states to make policy decisions for themselves without unauthorized interference from the Feds. The most recent example of constitutional hypocrisy being put forward by the party of Lincoln comes from Reps. Phil Gingrey and Lamar Smith in the form of H.R. 5, or the HEALTH Act. Their bill is an affront to the Bill of Rights and would result in the imposition of a federally imposed, top-down, one-size-fits-all, special-interest driven emasculation of fundamental constitutional rights, turning victims of medical malpractice and dangerous drugs into constitutional eunuchs.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.