Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thomas on the Seventh Amendment in Puerto Rico

Jason Mazzone

My colleague Suja Thomas has a very interesting post at the Volokh Conspiracy on a recent decision of a district court that the Seventh Amendment requires the availability of civil juries in Puerto Rican courts. The decision is a bit of a mind bender. There is a key background issue of whether Puerto Rico is an incorporated or unincorporated territory and the district court appears to have hedged its bets on that question by characterizing the right to a jury trial as so fundamental that it must apply in either case. To reach that result, the district court says also that the Seventh Amendment jury trial right applies in state courts. And to get there (because the Supreme Court has not incorporated the Seventh Amendment right against the states), the district court views the incorporation issue open for new examination after McDonald v Chicago. Suja, an expert on the historic role of civil juries, does a nice job of laying out the complexities of the case and previewing what all of this might mean for Puerto Rico (assuming the First Circuit doesn't reverse) -- and beyond.  

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