I am no expert on this subject, but with a little bit of common sense and research one can come to some conclusions. I can fully understand how many Americans have followed the high profile US court cases in recent times and will have a view as to the pros and cons of certain legislation and jury trials.
My understanding of a typical US state’s jury system is somewhat limited , but I do know that the system has evolved from the original English system to something quite different. Because of the US federal constitutional arrangement and the subsequent power of each state, the original English system has developed into 51 different systems (50 states and 1 federal).
Many countries in the world either do not offer a jury trial option, or have a very limited options, usually depending on the type of crime being tried. Most of the countries in the world, who were part of the original British Empire, have continued on with the English common law system and, along with it, the Westminster system of government. The original legal and judicial system in the US was based on the Westminster system, that then changed after the American Revolution, and then modified further within the various states.
On doing a little research I have found the following quote from Thomas Jefferson “Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary Department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislature. The execution of the laws is more important than the making (of) them” (JP Boyd (1985), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (V15, p285)).
To get to the question of what is the role of the Legislature (Parliament), versus the role of the Judiciary, I think it could be best summed up as follows. The Legislature passes laws that apply to everyone uniformly, and then the Judiciary usually tries a single case involving a particular crime based on the laws passed by that Legislature. The Judiciary obviously cannot enforce a law that has not first been passed by a Legislature. The US Supreme
Court is somewhat different in that can act as the 3rd arm of government. The advantages or otherwise of voting for both judicial and legislative representatives should be debated at another time.
The two very separate functions require different processes, and while the legislative system is not perfect, nor is the judiciary system. The two systems have been developed over many hundreds of years and I do not think a better system has yet been developed. Winston Churchill in 1947 said “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time ……”.
While the justice system varies somewhat between countries, there are considerable similarities, regardless of their system of government. Places like France operate under a Civil Code justice system, as against the Common Law system While communist governments have a very different form of government, it is surprising how close their judicial system is to the rest of the world. There is an amazing commonality between nations regardless of the system they use. Courts, witnesses, evidence, sworn statements, prosecutors, judges and variations of same usually apply.
I did not think my father was very political, but he quoted Winston Churchill on more than one occasion. Just as an aside, unless you are fortunate enough to have had many heart to heart conversations with your parents, very few of you will ever fully understand them. I certainly didn’t. My children are now 49 and 48 years of age and I am not sure how well they really know me or their mother. Somehow, parents are not regular people – they are your parents!
One thought on “Jury Trials v Legislation”
Phil: I wrote yesterday a bit about juries. Trials, however, account for about 10% of state incarceration, and even less for Federal incarceration. That means over 90 percent of inmates in American prisons pleaded guilty. Most often those guilty pleas are the result of prosecutors offering a lesser sentence by reducing charges in exchange for a plea. or threatening to pile on more charges and thus more prison time unless the person agrees to make a plea. This replaces juries with “persuasive ” prosecutors in well over 90 percent of the disposition of cases in the US.
Warmest regards, Ed