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The Importance of Jury Trials

I once watched Jere Beasley, the famed Alabama politician and self-avowed trial lawyer stand before a pro-business Kiwanis club audience and ask the following question: “How many people in this room feel like the government does a good job regulating businesses?” A couple of dozen hands sheepishly rose, and an even greater number of audience members let out a knowing chuckle. “I couldn’t agree with you more,” Beasley replied, “I think you do a better job regulating yourselves.” The Kiwanians looked at each other confused by how they could agree with a prominent trial lawyer on an issue so politically polarizing as governmental regulation of business.

Of course, Beasley’s point was that more can be done to bring about a change in unsafe or objectionable business practices in a jury box than in the halls of Congress. We often tend to forget that our government derives its power from the “ordinary” people: the cashier at the grocery store, your next-door-neighbor, and your Aunt Mae. Government officials cannot send someone to prison without the say-so of these ordinary people that serve on juries. When it becomes necessary to reign in abusive or improper corporate actions, juries made up of citizens from your community are called upon to decide what is right and what is wrong. When a jury speaks with one voice, imposing money damages on a business, it tends to encourage the business to change its wayward practices. So, take jury duty seriously, it may be your greatest opportunity to bring about change in your community, state, and nation.

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