On February 28th, President Donald Trump gave an amazing speech to the American people, during a joint session of Congress. While everyone gives the speech the good marks it deserves, there was one disturbing part of the speech.
President Trump called for tort reform, which means the demise of the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Most Americans can identify only a few of the Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Most know the First, Second and famously the Fifth Amendment and the right to remain silent. Most people could not even tell you what the Third Amendment is (not being required to quarter troops in homes, except in cases of war) and the Seventh Amendment (the right to a civil jury trial).
The right to a jury trial is probably the most important right given to us in the Constitution. How do we know this? It is the only right specifically mentioned in two of the amendments to the Constitution. The right to a jury trial in a criminal case is granted in the Sixth Amendment and the right to a jury trial in a civil case is guaranteed in the Seventh Amendment.
Unfortunately, President Trump has bought into the myth of the frivolous lawsuit. Frivolous lawsuits are a fable made up by the Chamber of Commerce and big insurance, which want to deny citizens their day in court. Lawyers don’t file frivolous lawsuits because they don’t make money from them. Lawyers can and sometimes are sanctioned for filing a lawsuit that is deemed to be frivolous.
America’s founding fathers revered the jury trial system, for both the civil and criminal case. In 1751, in South Carolina, the state legislature declared that “any person who shall endeavor to deprive us of so glorious a privilege of trial by jury,” was an enemy of the people.
In 1776, George Mason wrote in Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, “The ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.” It is held sacred, except by the big business corporatists who believe that rights exist only for the corporate elites and not for the average American citizen.
Unfortunately for the Seventh Amendment, it has few defenders in Congress. The biggest defender of the Seventh Amendment is the trial lawyers association, which means no one in Washington is defending the Seventh Amendment. The trial lawyers long ago became little more than a fund-raising arm for the Democrat Party, abandoning any pretense of working with Republicans.
Today, they stumble through the halls of Congress like newly castrated cattle, trying to figure out what they lost and why it was important. It is tragic that the defense of one of the most important constitutional rights Americans have, falls to a group that is so comically ineffective.
The only other defense of the Seventh Amendment comes from the House Freedom Caucus. This liberty-minded group in the House of Representatives has risen to the defense of the Seventh Amendment before. But with the House Freedom Caucus consisting of only thirty-two members, out of the 237 Republicans in Congress, it is really questionable how much they can do.
Millions of Americans, including recently President Trump, have said, “I’ll see you in court.” If Tort Reform is adopted, it will be the beginning of the end for the Seventh Amendment and the right of Americans to sue.
Thomas Jefferson said, “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.”
President Trump would do well to heed the words of President Jefferson and abandon the unconstitutional idea of Tort Reform.