This week, the Association of Trial Attorneys of America voted to change their name. This organization, of which I am a member, adopted the new name of the American Association for Justice. This change of the name is not merely some public relations ploy, but is an attempt to reflect what our purpose is. For more than two hundred years, justice has been provided through the American judicial system; and the cornerstone of that system has been the jury system. But recently, our system has come under fire.
Insurance companies, big business, and special interest groups have determined that the American Citizen is no longer competent to render justice. They want to eliminate jury trials, or in the alternative limit the discretion of the jurors with inadequate caps. Many of the arguments used are similar to arguments that were used in the 1600’s and 1700’s when the idea of democracy was budding in Europe and later in the Western Hemisphere. The argument used by the monarchies was that the average citizen lacked the intellectual capacity to determine through elections their representatives. Only royalty and the “intelligentsia” were capable of such duties. We later heard this same arguments when minorities and woman fought for their right to vote. Now we hear that the American Citizen lacks the intellect or sophistication to render fair verdicts; and that American tends to fall prey to their emotions. Those arguments ring as hollow today as they did centuries ago. It is an insult to every citizen of this great country.
As a trial lawyer, and as a citizen, I feel it is my duty to fight to save our great legal system. I am proud to be a part of an organization that strives for justice. Citizen participation is an essential part of our legal system; more importantly, citizen participation is essential for justice!