Expedited Jury Trials Secure Americans' Precious Right to Trial by Jury

Aug 13, 2013, 13:51 ET from American Board of Trial Advocates

National Jury Summit to direct attention to opportunities for advancements in the trial system and improving public access

DALLAS, Aug. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The dramatic reduction in the number of civil jury trials in recent years should be a wake-up call to Americans wishing to preserve a fundamental constitutional right, say planners of the upcoming National Jury Summit in Austin, Texas, Oct. 10, 2013. One of America's most basic rights — the jury trial — is in jeopardy.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130813/DC63460)

Themed as the "Expedited Jury Trial," the National Jury Summit is a call to action that will feature sessions on reducing the cost and time involved in civil litigation and improving access to jury trials. Examining reform efforts that have already taken place in federal and state courts will be a key topic, as well as addressing ways to handle complex litigation proceedings.

Numerous studies, including a recent report by the National Center for State Courts, have demonstrated that there is overwhelming support for the jury trial among Americans. And yet, there is an alarming downward trend occurring in the nation's civil courts.

"There is a widespread perception that civil jury trials are too complex, too expensive and too lengthy," said Michael T. Callahan, president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the organization sponsoring the Summit. "The decline in jury trials is a chilling sign that fewer citizens are able to exercise their Constitutional promise of access to justice."

Mr. Callahan described the problem another way. Imagine if someone threatened to remove your right to freedom of speech or the right to bear arms, the public outcry would be widespread. Erasing access to the civil jury trial is equally detrimental to citizens who have no other recourse, he said.

ABOTA, in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, has advocated changes that will improve the system's ongoing quality and relevancy.

"Juries are the backbone of our democracy and are as critical as the right to vote itself," said Summit Chair Gilbert H. Dickinson of the Denver law firm of Dickinson, Prud'Homme, Adams & Ingram, LLP. "The jury trial not only provides protection to the litigants, it also directly involves our citizens in the judicial branch of government. The declining numbers of jury trials demonstrates the need for innovations that will make the system more effective and efficient. Inaction is not an option."

The National Jury Summit will take steps to remove barriers — real and perceived — that prevent cases from proceeding to trial. The Summit will call for the implementation of expedited jury trials (or "summary jury trials" in some states) and streamlined pretrial procedures. Recommendations and alternatives will be discussed among lawyers, judges, courtroom administrators and law professors.

Summit speakers were chosen because they have backed up their research with action and are dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the jury trial. Speakers include:

  • Judge Gail A. Andler, Superior Court of California, Orange County (California)
  • Justice Rebecca L. Kourlis (ret.), Executive Director, Institute for Advancement of the American Legal System
  • Paula L. Hannaford-Agor, Center for Jury Studies, National Center for State Courts
  • Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Supreme Court of Texas
  • Justice David S. Lang, 5th District Court of Appeals, Texas
  • Professor Tracy McCormack, Director of Advocacy University of Texas School of Law
  • Judge Derek P. Pullan. 4th District Court Judge, Utah
  • Judge Lucindo Suarez Supreme Court of the State of New York

About the National Jury Summit:

The National Jury Summit is open to lawyers, judges, legal professionals, and the public. For registration and event information, call (800) 932-2682 or go to www.abota.org. The American Board of Trial Advocates conducted the first National Jury Summit in 2005 and has held summits every other year (2007, 2009 and 2011).

About the American Board of Trial Advocates:

ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges. ABOTA and its members are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ABOTA Foundation is an affiliated charitable entity, the mission of which is to support the purposes of ABOTA through education and research. ABOTA membership consists of more than 7,000 lawyers and judges spread among 97 Chapters in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. ABOTA publishes Voir Dire magazine, which features in-depth articles on current and historical issues related to the Seventh Amendment.

For more information:
Brian Tyson
(214) 871-7523

SOURCE American Board of Trial Advocates