At a time when most major institutions, from big business to government, are under attack, the civil jury system, which is the balance wheel between government and ordinary citizens, is held in high esteem as an institution.
A recent survey by Langer Research Associates of New York for the Defense Research Institute revealed that 58 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the civil justice system. However, 41 percent lack that confidence.
Most citizens would rather have their cases decided by juries (64 percent) than judges (27 percent). Of those citizens holding strong views, 41 percent strongly felt juries were fairer than judges; only 13 percent strongly felt judges were preferable.
There are differences among age groups: 69 percent of adults younger than 30 see jury service as a civic duty. Among seniors, that sentiment reaches 82 percent.
Fifty-three percent of seniors have actually served on a jury, and among former jurors, 81 percent say their own jury experience was a positive one. Interestingly, only 17 percent of jurors had a somewhat negative or very negative view of jury service, and it is not clear whether that is due to the economics of paying juries peanuts in this tough economy or not.
All in all, respect for our unique system of jury trials is deservedly well-received. No wonder our state constitution says the right to trial by juries, not judges, is a sacred right.