Example of the 7th Amendment:- Being a part of the Bill of Rights, the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for the rules that govern civil trials in Federal Courts in the United States. It guarantees the right to a civil jury trial in the Federal Courts where the amount of the dispute is more than Twenty Dollars.
There is an interesting fact about the 7th Amendment. In the United States, there are two kinds of court systems, state and federal. As per the mandate of the Seventh Amendment, civil jury trials exist as a right only in the federal courts. However, almost all the states have provided the right to a civil jury trial in their respective constitutions in certain kinds of cases.
What are the Objectives of the 7th Amendment?
The very purpose of the amendment is to maintain a difference between the powers and responsibilities of the juries and the courts. As per the common law practice, the courts deal in matters of law while the juries deal in matters of fact.
Bifurcation of the Original Text of the Seventh Amendment
To easily have an understanding of the interpretation of the Seventh Amendment, you may analyse it with its bifurcation into two clauses. The two clauses are the Preservation Clause and the Re-examination Clause.
A. The Preservation Clause states that “the right to jury trial shall be preserved in Suits, where the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars.” Classifying cases in which the right to civil jury trial is preserved.
B. The Re-examination Clause states that “the facts tried by a jury shall not be re-examined in any Court of the US, except according to the rules of the Common Law.” Preventing federal courts from overturning a jury decision.
Some Common Examples in which the Seventh Amendment can be invoked
1. Personal Injury
Imagine you hired a speedboat and while riding it, due to the low maintenance and fault of the owner of the speedboat you met with an accident and suffered injuries. As per the Seventh Amendment, you have a right to initiate a lawsuit in the federal court against the owner of the speedboat from whom you hired it for the damages suffered by you due to personal injury caused by the faulty speedboat.
2. Breach of Contract
The Seventh Amendment also comes to the rescue in the cases of breach of contracts. Let’s assume you entered into a contract with a video editor to edit videos for you for a specific price. However, the video editor fails to complete the task as the person is not a skilled video editor or fails to edit on time.
The Seventh Amendment enables you to sue the concerned person in a federal court for the breach of contract and to claim the damages in the form of compensation for the loss suffered by you.
3. Employment Disputes
Employment disputes such as termination of employment without due process or other issues related to employment laws that can be compensated in monetary terms are also covered under the purview of the Seventh Amendment. Suppose, as per the policy, your employer is obliged to serve you with 30 days advanced termination notice, but the employer does not oblige with such rules and terminates your employment instantly.
This is another example of cases that can be dealt with by a jury as per the provisions of the Seventh Amendment.
What if your civil rights are violated and you get discriminated against on the basis of your race, gender, or religion? This action has violated your civil rights and as per the rights conferred in the Seventh Amendment, a jury trial to deal with the case in a federal court is prescribed.
The key thing to note is that the pleadings must state the compensation which you are seeking from the defendant, as one of the essential requirements of the Seventh Amendment is that the matter in controversy must be more than twenty dollars.
Let’s imagine that slanderous statements against you have been published by some person and have caused damage to your reputation. The remedy in law is to get compensated for this defamation caused against you.
Again, in such cases, a jury trial can be invoked by virtue of the Seventh Amendment and the jury will decide if the defamation was done or not.
Shortcomings of the Civil Jury Trial and the Seventh Amendment
It is not wrong to say that you will hardly see any civil dispute being decided by a civil jury these days. The entire process of a civil jury trial is extremely expensive and long. Parties these days refrain from initiating this process as they are more comfortable in getting the case decided by a judge or settling the dispute by way of an agreement.
Q. What kind of cases are covered under the scope of the Seventh Amendment?
As per the Seventh Amendment, only civil cases in which the matter in controversy is more than twenty dollars are covered in Federal Courts.
Q. Is it mandatory for state courts to deal with every civil case by a jury trial?
As per the Seventh Amendment, it is not mandatory for states to deal with every civil case by a jury trial. However, the states are free to incorporate civil jury trials in their respective Constitutions.
Q. Can a judge disregard or re-examine the findings of facts by a jury in a civil trial?
No, as per the re-examining clause of the Seventh Amendment, a judge is prevented from re-examining the findings of facts by a jury in a civil trial.