The Seventh Amendment and Its Impact on the Law

The Seventh Amendment and Its Impact on the Law

( – The Seventh Amendment speaks of common law, suits, and jury trials. It’s therefore impossible to understand this amendment or why it exists without understanding something of what these terms mean or meant at the time.

“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.”

Juries, Suits, and Common Law

In the United States, everyone is afforded the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, if all other elements meet the requirements for a jury trial. Since juries were supposed to make a decision based on British law while colonists were under British rule, not everyone was keen on relying on this method of trial. At the same time, they saw the value of jury trials in civil suits.

Suits as referred to in the Seventh Amendment mean lawsuits or disputes between parties. These are not the same as criminal suits, where a representative of the area prosecutes a person for breaking a law. Hence, this particular amendment focuses on financial suits, such as debts and contractual disputes.

Common law is not the same as a statute. Statutes are laws that were presented as bills, then developed and made into laws by legislatures. A common law comes after judicial review and is based on opinion and interpretation of existing elements.

Federal Element

When dealing with elements of the Constitution, it pays to always keep in mind that these amendments are meant to detail the rights of the people under federal law. Because of this, the Seventh Amendment only applies to federal suits, rather than state ones. But it does set a precedent that some states choose to follow. Not all states guarantee a right to a jury trial in the case of civil suits, and ones that do can set their own parameters so that the amounts involved may vary from state to state, and from state to federal standards.

Another Trial

The second part of the Seventh Amendment speaks of retrying cases. As in the case of criminal courts, civil courts cannot retry cases for the same exact issues that have already been decided by another jury. Civil cases can, and often are appealed, but cannot be retried by another jury.

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