Oregon Re-affirms the Importance of Citizen Juries
Juries are the oldest continuous democratic institution in the world. When Oregon adopted its original constitution, it affirmed that “In all civil cases the right to Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate.” That was intended as a protection against political meddling with justice: independent citizens, serving on juries, are to decide cases; politicians were not to pre-judge disputes or tilt the scales of justice.
Things went sideways in the 1980s, when some politicians ignored the Oregon constitution, set arbitrary caps on what juries could decide, and kept those caps secret from the jurors. It took many years, but the Oregon Supreme Court eventually determined that was unconstitutional.
In the last session, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 193, which re-affirms the importance of citizen juries by repealing those unconstitutional damages cap statutes. Once again, “In all civil cases the right to Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate.”