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In our series on the first Ten Amendments, added to the Constitution through the Bill of Rights, we come to the Seventh Amendment.

Our Founding Fathers wouldn't approve of me not getting around to it, since they approved it in the first place.

As much as the Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to a jury, the Seventh Amendment serves to ensure that civil litigants are entitled to jury trials also.

“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.”

Common law, from what I gather, was another name for civil law back then.

In case you're wondering, a civil case being a noncriminal lawsuit, usually involves private property rights. Or lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence and copyright violations.

The Seventh also sets up the precedence for a civil trial, which is different from a criminal trial.

O.J. Simpson was innocent in his criminal trial yet guilty in his civil trial. Since in the latter there only needs to be enough evidence to give you the impression of guilt, and you just need a majority saying, "Guilty."

In the case of lawsuits, it is argued (not only by lawyers) that product liability lawsuits are about the only means we have to hold powerful corporations responsible.

And sometimes they even work.

What do you think?

J. Peterman


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28 Members’ Opinions
June 01, 2009 2:31 AM
1014 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-reviewFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 karma swim swami said...

Where's lewisjones when you need him?

June 01, 2009 9:02 AM
1198 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Doc Nolan said...

My eyes glaze over when legal topics come up.... most seem a lot like quadratic equations or differentiation..... maybe it's that I don't know why (historically) this Amendment was put into the Constitution.... help.... is there a lawyer in the house???

June 01, 2009 9:03 AM
Me_and_dave 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Andy said...

In the case of OJ, so many of us felt that at least partial justice was served.  Though not much, the families must have felt somewhat vidicated.
Otherwise, often that is your only recourse.  The frustration felt when someone with whom you contracted does not do the right thing can be a little appeased when you take them to court.  Even if you lose, you at least cause them some of the same frustration that they have caused you.
I believe the 7th amendment was made for the people.  While never availing myself of it, when it comes to the cable company, I've considered it.

June 01, 2009 9:32 AM
First-com Troll said...

The right to a law suit is essential.   Caps on settlements is just a way of protecting the powerful those with realy deep pockets.

June 01, 2009 12:23 PM
First-comHr-1 TimTam1958 said...

This is a great series.  Keep it up!  Sic Semper Tyrranis & Deo Vindice!

June 01, 2009 12:38 PM
800 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-reviewHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Michael said...

Lawyers really do get a bad rap where civil cases are concerned.  With criminal cases, lawyers don't seem to get quite as much guff, but with civil, everyone thinks the legal eagles are out to suck blood.  What people don't realize is, civil cases are about the only defense regular people have against being being pushed aside.  Without civil cases, it would be money and not law that ruled the land. 
Sadly, civil law gets abused by absurdity and a huge lacking in personal responsibility.  A person should know that putting a paper cup of freshly brewed coffee between their legs while in a moving vehicle is idiotic. 
There needs to be a balance between personal responsibility and civil cases.  If for no other reason than to save money on the ink used to print ridiculous warning labels.  My current favorite is on my jar of natural peanut butter.  The ingredients list is "Peanuts, salt".  Immediatly next to that it says "WARNING: Product contains peanuts". 
I'm not sure I want to meet the idiot who requires that warning label.

June 01, 2009 1:28 PM
10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Peter Lake said...

Bless the good will and noble intent of those who framed our constitution. I believe they sought to give the common man, any citizen under its protection, a peaceful and reasonable means of settling civil differences with the hope, I hope; of leveling the playing field and making an injured party "whole".  

Shame on those who have thrown out the baby with the bath water, that being common sense and good judgment; and now exploit this system to reap what in many cases I believe are unjust rewards.


Do we still need this protection? Absolutely.


Should our society as a whole have to suffer because those who would exploit system for enormous gain, regardless of the good or bad intentions of those who have caused harm? I don't believe so.


I hope and pray that the vast majority of claims are made with the intent of being "made as whole as possible" and not as a vehicle to accumulate vast riches through "no fault of their own", that just being in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time.


It sickens me when I read about huge settlements being rewarded to people because their coffee was hot, because the door width to their business was ¼ inch to narrow when the owner had made a good faith attempt to ensure that it allowed easy access to all of his customers. I'm comforted that we now recognize and offer protection those who try to do good under the "Good Samaritan" laws


It worries me greatly when in my state; many doctors are moving their practices elsewhere because the cost of insurance is too high as a result of the increase of enormous settlements. Many I'm sure with merit. Many I'm sure due solely to the skill of hungry lawyers.


It saddens me that there seems to be a bias against any person or corporation merely because it has attained success, despite the fact that their success was earned the hard way..... By always seeking and taking the high road legally, morally and socially.


I'm not smart enough to have an answer, a "silver bullet" solution that would restore the original intent of this amendment.


We do need this amendment because unfortunately all of society cannot consistently be counted on to do the "right" thing. To make a good faith effort to repair what harm they may have caused.


Bad things often happen to good people and they should be protected. If there is now a bias however, that is based solely on the "income and power" of those being charged... regardless of their motives and intentions.... Then I think the pendulum has swung to far the other way.


As I said earlier, I hope this system is only abused by the minority and still protects the well intended majority. If not, then it has become a classic example of how the road to hell can be paved with good intentions.


"Other than that, I really don't have much of an opinion on this topic. May the 7th Amendment continue to serve those who truly need it" says Peter Lake as he steps down from his orange crate in the park, addressing the flock of pigeons that have endured his speech because they tnink he has bread in his pockets.


Peace out... and be careful out there....

June 01, 2009 1:59 PM
Bwme 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 nachista said...

Peter for office, we need statemen, not politicians and I believe you fit the bill!

June 01, 2009 2:24 PM
10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Peter Lake said...

Nachista, Thank you, but until there is an office titled "Benevolent Dictator and Semi-Supreme Ruler of the Universe", I doubt I'd have the patience......... besides, I enjoy just riding the Thesepia train to much and would fear that it would leave the station without m....

June 01, 2009 3:08 PM
1-dscn1106-4 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 PARK4 said...

nachista, I couldn't agree more.  And Peter Lake, wow.  You need to take that orange crate and haul it to the back platform of the Thesepia train, and it will make stops all along the way, throughout the countryside, and there you can share your thoughts with the people who line the tracks and who stand waiting at stations from east to west.  You're too valuable to keep yourself to yourself.  Well done, Mr. Lake.

June 01, 2009 3:09 PM
1-dscn1106-4 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 PARK4 said...

e  ?? Can I play too?  

June 01, 2009 3:14 PM
First-com LillieOnTheMove said...

I think civil juries are absolutely necessary-it is part of democracy and thus at the heart of the constitution.  Only money and property is at issue, not the liberty or life of the defendant or respondent (as the person sued is also known in civil court). 
The burden of proof is much lower than the criminal standard of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' and there is far more evidence that comes into court than does a criminal case.  Additional evidence coming in likely made a difference as well as the burden of proof, in OJ's case. 
Unfortunately, there is far too much emphasis on the hot coffee cup case in lap, the attorney who sues the dry cleaner for a ridiculous sum of money, and other ridiculous suits and runaway judgments that belie explanation.  What people do not know, because it does not fit into the shocking newscycle is that overall are good attorneys out there who file decent lawsuits that if the average person on the street knew the facts, the average person would get good and angry about the case and 99% of those filed cases get settled. 
Want to know how good your car insurance company really is?  Call your friend who is an attorney who might know who does personal injury work.  You might hear some horror stories about how some insurance companies are horrible at settling lawsuits when people are injured.  Think that doesn't affect you?  It might if someone without or minimal insurance hits you and has no insurance and then you need to collect on your own uninsured or underinsurance coverage needs to cover you.  They might become as stingy with you or your family in settling.  I know lots of lawyers who have changed their own insurance coverage based on their dealings in settling cases for their clients.  There are some really sad stories.  The only hammer that the plaintiff's attorneys have is the threat of a box of jurors who are real people who don't like insurance companies. 
It costs so much money to litigate a civil case and often the defense will try to wear down the plaintiff down in the pretrial process with delays and costly preparations that would truly stun the general public if they knew how costly a simple deposition or two cost to have taken. 
As for medical malpractice, just because a doctor made a mistake doesn't mean that it is a case that an attorney in reality would take.  Medical malpractice cases are extremely expensive cases that should only be taken by attorneys who know the area well, they require a tremendous time and monetary investment and usually they are heavily screened and the patient/client must have some serious damages i.e. injuries as a result to justify that kind of commitment.  For the most part, that is common sense.  I suspect that many doctors who move out of an area or stop practicing a specialty do so do to rising malpractice costs, but that is a suspicion.  I have personally known missed cancer diagnosises to be turned down by reputable law firms who specialize in med mal because the cancer was caught by another doctor and the person received treatment and the person survived.  Did the doctor malpractice?  Yes, it was clear that he deviated from reasonable medical standards.  However, her injuries were a delay in treatment and she was lucky to have lived.  She might not have, but she did.  That is what a reputable firm does. 
That's my two cents from a plaintiff's position.  Certainly, there are abuses, but those are often headlines that no one ever follows up to the final outcome.  That is unfortunate because I suspect that in the end, what is usually hyperbole and beyond the pale, ends up in a big dismissal.  
From the defense perspective, there are civil defense attorneys who are professional who work within their authority to settle cases.  They zealously represent their clients, as they are ethically required to do so, recognizing that ultimately there is a jury of the plaintiff's peers that will ultimately judge liability and put a dollar figure on the plaintiff's damages.  It is the attorney who has to make sure that their client will look as if they have dealt fairly with the plaintiff, or judge the plaintiff's likeability, but make no mistake ultimately, they have to keep their eye on the ball and what the jury will think of their client's conduct is what is most important at the end of the day. 

June 01, 2009 3:48 PM
293 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-5 rings90 said...

I can agree that Civil Suits can help some of the victims & families obtain a small measure of closure. Yet at times it really makes me wonder.
Yeah ~ The Goldmans & the Borwns got $$$$ from OJ's estate, but has it REALLY brought back their lost loved ones? it seems to leave a very large door open to make the case that $$$ can buy happiness as long as the jury awards it?

June 01, 2009 3:49 PM
293 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-5 rings90 said...

PeterLake ~ Can I apply for a job on Thesepia Train it seems no one else in the world wants to hire me? :)

June 01, 2009 3:57 PM
First-com LillieOnTheMove said...

I think the Court system, as incredibly flawed as it is, honestly is pretty amazing.  That incidents of private justice and revenge are so low is nothing short of incredible.  I'm sure there are many reasons for this; 'leave to God what is God's business' but I also think that it is because there is a court remedy available and that allows time for healing and grieving and finding different ways to steel yourself not allow that person who took your loved one not take your humanity. 
I don't know how people do it, but they do.  I stand in wonder.  I've seen it up close. 
But happiness, no.  

June 01, 2009 4:07 PM
10photoviewsCom-100Com-300First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-5 Paul Murphy said...

I have been smart enough to get out of every call to jury duty in any court.  I'd have shaken confidence for all the jurors who couldn't do the same for me.


OK a  little kidding aside...there must be some good


Last week in our conversation on pizza I mentioned spending time in Rome with Alitalia.  That project spanned about the time of the OJ Trial.  I have to say the Italians were rolling on the floor with our fixation on the event.  On the day of the verdict I was walking into the hotel lobby where I was staying when the verdicts were read.  I was curious to their laughing response with high fives to each other.  I had no clue of the details, because the TV set only got Italian stations fot the previous three months and I was not fluent enough to have their news "entertain" me any more than our does in English.  At dinner I asked my host what's up.  He said they applauded the verdict as our prosecuting attorney made enough mistakes to acquit Hitler.  I stayed in touch with them and they could not understand a civil trial, nor could they appreciate how it could be decided the other way and why any financial retribution would be required from an innocent man.  I told him I was always of the impression that civil suits were all about property rights as well.  We both, from the Philadelphia Bench,  agreed that both cases led to a flaw in our justice system.  What do we know.


So on to marriage and the ultimate jurors.  It seems the church or religion has historically ruled over the moral commitments of a man to a woman.  I am wondering when it was that governments stuck their nose in to things.  And besides it is a license NOT A RIGHT!!!  Yet in all ceremonies the bride and groom go off to sign a contract, making it a civil union, a contract.  I am not sure what the contract says because neither my wife or I  can remember our anniversary let alone what it says, but I am sure in divorce if that should ever happen I would wager that every cent would be accounted for by the attorneys in a civil court.  We have elections to gather the "will of the people",  on issues that shouldn't even be only to have eventually 9 jurors interpret not only what we voted for but what our core values are.  And these folks have no impunity to reckless decisions at all. 



Men in Black...  my review: ;


I think today the Italians continue to laugh at us.

June 01, 2009 5:13 PM
10photoviewsCom-100Com-300First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-5 Paul Murphy said...

Boy it looks like this topic brings out the long winded briefs from people and thats ok with me.  Peter to you comment:  "

It saddens me that there seems to be a bias against any person or corporation merely because it has attained success, despite the fact that their success was earned the hard way..... By always seeking and taking the high road legally, morally and socially."




What so Great About America, is these "people"  with some exception, in their success have done much to improve the human condition world wide.  Yet becaue of their wealth, and our general jealousy they find themselve in court all to often.


My review on this related book:

June 01, 2009 5:57 PM
10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Peter Lake said...


There is no need to apply for a job on Thesepia train.


If there is a purpose you whish to fulfill; it is yours for the taking for no one else could do it better.


We are all Owner-Operators of this grand beast that takes us wherever we wish to travel and in the style and company of whom we wish to travel.


As with so many things of this nature, even on our powerful, gently rocking locomotive-powered beast that takes us to everywhere and anytime... there is always a job of sustaining yours and our hopes so we are primed and ready for action when the right time comes.

June 01, 2009 6:25 PM
1046 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Willie Trask said...

MY apologies for the lack of TRIAL BY JURY in the link above. Sometimes things settle before going to court, I guess.

June 01, 2009 6:45 PM
293 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-5 rings90 said...

Thanks PeterLake...

June 01, 2009 8:32 PM
Atticus_1 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Bert said...

We declared our independence in 1776, but it took until 1791 to get the Bill of Rights approved (the 1st ten amendments to the constitution}.  this country's founding fathers truly were gifted, coming up with a system whereby ordinary people could put their fate in the hands of other.....ordinary people!  In Japan,  it is still considered to be shameful to be so unskillful as to be unable to personally negotiate a settlement to one's differences with others. 
Many people who dislike lawyers feel that way because they  had a bad experience with the chap who represented their ex-wife,  or they resented paying a fee merely to be restored to their originazl position where they were right all along.  Under the American system of damages, generally each side must absorb their own fees. 
I have been a criminal & appellate attorney for 36+ years, and I never fail to be amazed at how ordinary people can be empowered to excede  expectations,  and  do  the  right  thing.  The jury system is amazing.  Many people blaming lawyers for their  situation actually should remember that it is not the lawyer that put the ball in play, but the client, whether that client be the government, a corporation, or a private citizen.  The lawyer is only the messenger, and he has an obligation to the court above and beyond his obligation to his client.  He must play by the rules, and within an appropriate ethical framework.
Doctors have a better sense of self-preservation than lawyers. It is hard to get them to criticize each other, almost to a fault.  And they are not in an adversarial system, so 5 doctors all share the goal of healing the patient.  Five lawyers each serve different masters, and we are a litigious society.  Doctors carefully control the number of new doctors trained each year, via their professional association, the AMA.  Lawyers seem disinterested that highly profitable (for universities) law schools multiply like rabbits in heat.  Then the new starving lawyers, with enormous student debt and no clients, are tempted to cut ethical corners to snag clients or to win regardless of ethical shortcomings. 
All of this having been said,  I  love  my  profession.  Think  of  Gregory  peck  in  "To  Kill  A  Mockingbird."  Or  of   Abraham  Lincoln.  I  an  absolutely amazed that  people  actually  pay  me  to  do  work  that  I  would  eagerly  do  for  free.

more on the honor roll
June 01, 2009 10:08 PM
4220 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300First-comFirst-photoFirst-reviewFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Daniel Zev said...

I should comment on this, I really and truly should. But as a burned out pre-law student taking law courses and currently preparing for moot trial, I am so utterly exhausted. The only cases that come to mind are Liebeck v. McDonald's and Pearson v. Chung. I have four weeks left of classes and then a glorious two month break. I can't wait.

June 01, 2009 11:01 PM
10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Peter Lake said...

Junkyard Dog, It's very heartening to hear from someone who is devoted to their profession because they honor and love what they do. I believe that's what being a "professional" is all about.

Be well

June 01, 2009 11:48 PM
1198 10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Doc Nolan said...

Japan has not had trial by jury until very recently -- and that only for serious criminal matters.  The attitude is 'Why pay expensive and well trained judges, and then have cases decided by ignorant laymen who have no expertise in law nor training in legal procedures?'  I'm beginning to think that trial by jury is essential in places where corruption is endemic and judges are 'on the take', but that in places where justice is professionally administered, one is better off with professional judges.  After 32 years in Texas I'm convinced that electing judges is the worst system.... ideologues, loyal to 'conservative values' and 'the ruling party' make law according to the party's ideology -- not the facts or the law.  As for corruption, well.... the Savings and Loan Scandel originated in Texas, Enron was a Houston firm, the state has the highest rate of executions nationwide, and in Dallas a study of DNA for folks in prison has found a lot of them have spent decades in prison for crimes they didn't do.... and as for 'getting out of jail', it never hurts to have money.... I'm afraid Balzac pegged the legal system in his novels.... it's a scary mechanism that feeds on the public and creates new crimes in order to keep the system full and its employees busy and well-paid.... 

June 02, 2009 1:20 PM
10photoviews10videoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoFirst-videoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 Peter Lake said...

We definitley need Stony's, Houseguest's and Eve's thoughts on today's subject to help us get off track and on to a better one........

Prime Web

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights Take a look at an interesting article we found.

The Constitution of the United States of America

The Constitution of the United States of America Take a look at an interesting article we found.

Seventh Amendment Legal Definition

Seventh Amendment Legal Definition Take a look at an interesting article we found.

Honor Roll

We declared our independence in 1776, but it took until 1791 to get the Bill of Rights approved (...


Jun. 01, 2009 8:32 PM

read full opinion


Who benefits most from the Seventh Amendment?

  • The public The public 9%
  • Lawyers Lawyers 27%
  • Nobody Nobody 0%
  • Everybody Everybody 55%
  • State your case State your case 9%

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