Our jury system is in trouble, big trouble, and that’s no small matter. It’s a Constitutional matter. The right to a civil jury trial is enshrined in our Constitution’s Seventh Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights.
But that right is under siege, as explained in a recent series of New York Times articles. Who is assaulting this important right? Corporate America. Corporations are tucking away arbitration clauses into the contracts their customers and employees are routinely required to sign. These arbitration clauses state something like this: “The company may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration”. With these simple words, corporations are depriving millions of Americans to their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.
Examples abound. Do you have a credit card, a cell phone, or internet service? Then you have given up your right to a jury trial in any dispute with those companies. In the fine print of your service contract lies a hidden a requirement that you “arbitrate” any disputes at a forum pre-selected by the corporation. The same is true in many employment contracts you might sign. Think your boss has discriminated against you? No jury. No Court. Arbitration.