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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

In his article, Professor Landsman surveys the historical progress of the civil jury. He argues that the jury has not been an unchanging icon of courtroom procedure but an exceptionally adaptable adjudicatory device. The earliest jury was an inquisitorial mechanism devoted to gathering information for England's Norman Conquerors. While the jury's association with state authority continued for centuries, by the time of the Stuarts' reign it had been transformed into a bulwark of liberty and a vehicle for democratic action.

The American jury too has been protean. In early Colonial times, it served as the essential instrument of governance. The conflicts that led to the creation of the United States resulted in its transformation into an expression of citizen concern about excessive state power. During the course of the nineteenth century, jury power ebbed as judicial authority grew. But by the early twentieth century, the jury had been reinvigorated.

Despite its revival, the modern jury has been the subject of unprecedented criticism. Professor Landsman argues that this criticism is ill-considered in light of recent empirical research. He concludes that the loss of the civil jury would deprive us of an institution that has proven itself uniquely capable of adapting to society's needs.

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