Celebrating the Constitution in times of change is a timely theme for 2022 Law Day. As war rages in Europe, we should be mindful of how fragile and tenuous our hold on democracy can be. History is filled with many more countries governed by tyrants and despots than those who were democratically elected.
Essential to the success of the rule of law is the promise of equity and opportunity to all citizens, ideals which are enshrined in our Constitution. As lawyers, it is our obligation to promote these principles, and Law Day is one of our best opportunities to do so.
The concept of citizen juries as a means to protect individual rights and liberties is of paramount importance to the members of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. In the United States, a jury decides if someone has been harmed by unsafe or inappropriate conduct and then determines the fair and appropriate amount of compensation to be awarded.
There is no such system of justice or rule of law in countries ruled by dictators. There, the powerful and connected simply act with impunity knowing the citizens have no ability to place accountability.
From time to time, there are voices raised to limit the role of citizen juries. Those seeking to silence juries complain ordinary citizens are too emotional or lack the foundation to render a “just” verdict.
Invariably, the individuals and groups who disparage the jury system are among the most influential and well-connected interest groups. We should carefully consider the motivations of those advocating limitations on the power of citizen juries.
Lastly, we should always be mindful and appreciative of the ability of juries to best reflect the current attitudes and mores of society.
In line with our theme for 2022 Law Day, the jury system is evidence of our Constitution’s ability to accommodate for the country’s progress in its views towards fairness and justice. We should continue to celebrate the role which citizen juries play in the preservation of the rule of law and justice in America.