This is a series of posts concerning the works of the 2009 Continental Congress. Two weeks ago I wrote about Article 6 of the Articles of Freedom, which was about property rights. Now I will continue with Article 7, the text of which follows.
Many of the issues raised in this article are interesting, and don’t necessarily disagree with them, but I must admit that I am have not educated myself enough on these issues to make a definite endorsement of all of them. Concerning the right to a common law jury, I would say that this is a very difficult issue for me. I don’t exactly see a right to a “common law” jury in the seventh amendment. It reads:
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 re-examined in any Court of the
First of all, I question whether or not the phase “In Suits at common law” (or even the twenty dollar clause) extends to the entire sentence or if “no fact…” was meant to stand by itself. If the former, then the whole thing only applies to Suits which already common law suits, and not other suits whether they are civil or criminal.
Of course, any criminal case the right to a trial by jury is guaranteed by the sixth amendment. (Why didn’t they use it since it’s so much more obvious?) Furthermore, due process rights are guaranteed by the fifth amendment in cases where one’s life, liberty, or property is at stake, (but this does not necessarily mean that there has to be a jury). But I am not knowledgeable enough to understand what the difference is between common law juries and ordinary petit juries which are in common use today, or if this is even something that the authors were intentionally trying convey.
The idea of “empower[ing] [grand juries] to authorize any citizen of their choice to prosecute a case” is interesting and I don’t see anything wrong with it, but I’m not sure it’s constitutionally necessary.
The rest of the ideas are very good and very necessary, especially nullification and the idea of requiring that the jury be informed of their right to nullify the law.
JURIES AND THE SEVENTH AMENDMENT
A. BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF THE FACTS
The Delegates representing forty-eight of the several States in Continental Congress assembled, being fully apprised in the premises, find that:
1. The American People are the American Sovereign;
2. As sovereign, the American People have the last say on the law;
3. American Citizens are called to sit on both Grand and Petit Juries;
4. In their capacity as jurors, the American people have the power, and the duty, to judge both the law and the facts;
B. REMEDIAL INSTRUCTIONS TO CONGRESS
1. Amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require judges to apprise all plaintiffs and defendants of their right under the 7th Amendment to a common law jury; and
2. Amend the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to require judges to apprise all defendants of their right under the 7th Amendment to a common law jury; and
3. Amend the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure to require all judges, in cases where the United States is a party to the case, to apprise all jurors of the judge’s conflict of interest; and
4. Amend the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to provide for trials authorized only by indictments or presentments by independent, randomly empanelled citizens’ common law grand juries, accessible to any individual having a complaint, and empowered to authorize any citizen of their choice to prosecute a case.
C. REMEDIAL INSTRUCTIONS TO EACH OF THE SEVERAL STATES
1. Amend the rules governing civil and criminal cases to require judges to apprise plaintiffs and defendants of their right under the 7th Amendment to a common law jury;
2. Amend the rules governing civil and criminal cases to require all judges, in cases where the State is a party to the case, to apprise all jurors of the judge’s conflict of interest.
D. RECOMMENDED CIVIC ACTIONS BY THE PEOPLE
1. When appointed to a jury, throw off the restraints of judicial tyranny by refusing to capitulate to any judicial instruction to judge only the facts; and
2. When appointed to a jury, demand to have all issues of law argued in the presence of the jury, and have the last say by judging the law;
3. Educate your family, friends, and community to learn about the Fully Informed Jury Association (“FIJA”), and the power of judging the law as well as the accused.
(from Articles of Freedom, the Works of the Continental Congress 2009)
Click here to read about income tax in the next article in this series.