What is the most important Constitutional right?
Arguments about that could go on for a very long time. All of the Constitutional rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are important. But is there one the founding fathers might have thought to be the most important of all? Actually, there might be.
What is it?
The Bill of Rights outlines many rights that are ensured to us and these rights are a shield against the power of an oppressive government.
We are guaranteed the right to free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, the right to keep and bear arms, the right against cruel and unusual punishments and others.
Could it be there is one of these rights that the founding fathers thought was so important, it was included in not one but two Amendments of the Bill of Rights?
It is the right to a jury trial.
The right to a jury trial is found in both the Sixth and Seventh Amendments to the Constitution.
The Sixth Amendment states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
And the Seventh Amendment states:
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 United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The two amendments specify one right, the right to have a trial by jury. The jury trial is one of the most amazing gifts to freedom and liberty that was given to us by our founding fathers.
The jury in a criminal case acts as an absolute shield against the abusive power of the government. A citizen accused does not have his or her fate decided by the same government that accuses it and should the verdict in the trial be unfavorable to the government, there is nothing to government can do.
By the same token, the civil jury trial is an incredible part of the free market and is the great equalizer. The poorest man in the nation can come into court against a rich man or corporation and get twelve citizens to decide his case.
The free market does a couple of things. It rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior. The justice system is a part of the free market that punishes bad behavior.
As we go into Thanksgiving this year, one of the things we should be grateful for is the wisdom of our founding fathers who thought the jury was such an important institution for the preservation of liberty that they included it not once, but twice in the Bill of Rights.
The right to a jury trial is not one of the sexy issues in the Tea Party movement. Nonetheless, we need to remain on our guard for those who do want to strip our right to have justice decided by our fellow citizens and not by the government.
How then can a single judge's decision overturn a verdict delivered by a jury? Or am I mistaken about that?
Judson I agree with you and thank you for highlighting this important right.
I have the same question as Katherine, how can a single judge overturn a jury verdict? It seems to me it would require a jury to overrule a jury.
A judge can overturn a conviction in a criminal case but not an acquittal. In a civil case, a judge can overturn a jury verdict if no reasonable jury could have come to that decision, because the seventh amendment states: "no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." Common law refers to the traditions of British law that we inherited, and according to common law at the time of the founding, judges could overturn jury verdicts in civil cases under those circumstances.
A judge may grant a motion for new trial after a conviction in a criminal case or after a verdict in a civil case, though such a decision is subject to appeal.
How can Obama get by with ordering the assassination of an American Citizen?
Exactly what US citizen did he order the assassination of???
Al-Owacky gave up his US citizenship when he joined a foreign military. The fact that military has declared war on us excacerbates his disavowal.
Al-Owacky was wacky. And a terrorist by the way, intending ill to this country. Not plotting against us now? That's a good thing. I shall shed no tears.
I'm not so sure I want to depend on Our President to make the decision, who is and who is not a Terrorist, and whom should be Assassinated. So far I haven't liked many of his decisions.
Actually I believe when he aided the enemies of the US, he lost his citizenship and became a target. To be honest, I would have made the same call.
Where, does the constitution limit government obligation within the first ten amendments that it applies only to "citizens"? It applies to people - period.
The 10th Amendment grants all rights, not specifically designated to the central gov't, to the states. The individual states trickle it down to individual citizens if my understanding of civics is correct on this. It's more convoluted than that but that's the basic answer I read. If I'm wrong I'll accept my 30 lashes.