Seventh and Sixth Amendments

Does Amendment Seven give you the right to a trial by an impartial jury during a civil suit? I ask this because my respected Government and Economics Teacher posed this question, or one much like it, on a quiz:

I feel that this is a civil case-- it says that Garth Brooks is taking Dr. Dre to court. Teacher says it is a criminal case-- smashing the guitars is vandalism.

Teacher says it doesn’t really matter which it is-- it is clearly dealing with the right to an impartial jury, covered by the Sixth Amendment. I, however, feel that the Sixth Amendment only applies to Criminal cases, which I feel this is not. I feel also that the Seventh Amendment, which applies only to Civil cases, also affirms with the right to an impartial jury, by refering back to the Sixth Amendment. Thus, this case would come under the Seventh Amendment.

Law folks, who is right? If I’m right, I promise not to shove it in Respected Gov’t and Economics Teacher’s face. If you convince me I’m wrong (and I’d like to be convinced-- it’s easier on me if I’m on the same wavelength as my teacher) I’ll eat crow.

Garth Brooks can’t take Dr. Dre to court in a criminal case. Only the state can bring criminal charges. Please, shove it in your teacher’s face–that kind of ignorance is appalling.

And the Sixth Amendment is about as clear as anything can be in relating to criminal prosecutions.

But, (playing teacher’s advocate) which one actually says “impartial jury”?

I’ve already had a nice, long discussion with him. Really, I did, and I was polite about it. It didn’t work, and I became frustrated. I really did go into the discussion wanting to be convinced. I tried to explain my viewpoint, and he kept laying down his “facts”, and he finally admitted that he wasn’t trying to convince me, just educate me. That’s when I realized why we weren’t making any progress, gave up, sat down, and began reading. This was rude, so I apologized later.

If it’s a criminal case, it wouldn’t be Garth Brooks taking Dre to court, it would be the government. When we say “Citizen A is taking Citizen B to court” we’re usually thinking of a civil trial. If a criminal trial is what was intended the question is very poorly worded. The Sixth Amendment only applies to criminal proceedings. I’m a little confused…why does your professor claim that it doesn’t matter if its a civil or criminal case if he says the Sixth Amendment is implicated?

The Seventh Amendment preserves the right to a trial by jury, but only in federal court. Courts have said that the states must abide by the Sixth Amendment in criminal trials, but don’t necessarily have to abide by the Seventh Amendment in civil trials. You don’t have a right to a trial by jury in a civil trial, although blatantly unfair trial practices, such as letting the plaintiff pick all the jurors, may violate the Equal Protection or Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

jklann is exactly right: Brooks could take Dre to civil court, but only the State is involved with criminal court.

Ask your teacher the difference between a homicide trial and a wrongful death suit. Or, maybe, don’t: It would probably make him angry.

(But don’t ask him how he could presume to educate you when he insists on spewing shit after having been corrected. It probably isn’t worth the trouble.)

BTW, the Sixth mentions impartial juries (saith the Cato Institute edition of the pocket-sized Declaration of Independence and US Constitution at my shoulder as I type this) in the context of criminal trials, whereas the Seventh preserves the right to trial by jury “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars.” The Seventh, which applies to civil suits (or so I read it), doesn’t mention impartial juries per se, but how else could the Framers have meant it?

Eh, elbow, not shoulder. Sorry. :slight_smile:

  1. Teacher is a very poor writer. Either the state has brought Dr. Dre to criminal court, or Garth Brooks has sued him in civil court. Garth has no power to bring anyone to criminal court.

  2. The Sixth amendment rights do indeed apply only to criminal cases, and therefore are actionable only against the State.

  3. The seventh amendment has two parts. The “amount in controversy” clause restricts access to FEDERAL courts, and the limit has increased to $75,000. The appeals clause upholds the rule that appeals courts can only rule on matters of law, not on matters of fact.

  4. The defendant’s role in the jury selection process pretty much guarantees all the impartiality he’s entitled to. I don’t know all the rules of civil jury selection, but I’m pretty sure the defendant has a chance to see them before the trial, which makes the whole question rather … questionable.

Teacher (this is in high school) says that, since the case deals with the right to a fair and impartial jury, it comes under the Sixth Amendment, which the courts (he claims) have interpreted to cover all trials.

In our discussion, (after pointing out that it wasn’t that state taking Dr. Dre to court) I asked if he thought that Civil Suits were a subset of Criminal Cases. This confused him, so I tried to explain what I meant, but I didn’t get a good answer out of him…
You guys are saying exactly what I told him. At least now I’m sure which one of us is wrong…

He claims the Sixth Amendment has been interpreted to cover all trials? Meaning both civil and criminal trials?

Ask him to tell you which case that was decided in.

I agree that the only way this question could be interpreted is that it is a CIVIL case based upon the way the parties are named. Two likely CIVIL causes of action come to mind: (1) conversion; and (2) trespass to chattels. There may be others. Vandalism isn’t one of them. As a civil case, the 6th Amendment would not apply.

I don’t know about the applicability of the 7th Amendment to state civil actions, but if the 7th Amendment doesn’t apply to state cases, then the question is ambiguous in that it fails to specify whether Dr. Dre brought his civil action in state court or federal court.

Otherwise, you may want to check this out… NOTE THE REFERENCE TO THE 5TH AMENDMENT DUE PROCESS CLAUSE.

Just print the thread and discreetly give it to the teacher. :smiley:

Or, better yet, leave it somewhere on the mess he calls a desk… then it can’t be linked directly to me… highlight important passages… maybe…

Keenan v. McGrath, 328 F.2d 610 (1st Circ. 1964)

Saro v. Brown, 11 Fed.Appx. 387 (6th Circ. 2001)

Taylor v. Newton Div. of Dist. Court Dept.,622 N.E.2d 261 (Mass.,1993.)

If your idiot teacher needs more proof I will be happy to oblige and flog the westlaw hamsters without mercy until he relents. ļ Private parties can NOT bring criminal actions. Not ex rel, not qui tam., not at all.

The Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law . . .” Under this clause, any action of the federal government (including civil and criminal litigation in federal courts) must comport with the standards of due process. A partial jury would likely be considered to be a violation of due process. However, the Fifth Amendment does not, by its terms apply to the states.

The Sixth Amendment provides for a trial by an impartial jury in federal criminal prosecutions. As discussed above, if Brooks sues Dre, it would be a civil action, so the Sixth Amendment would not apply. In any event, if it were a federal criminal prosecution, the Sixth Amendment would apply. However, in most circumstances vandalism would not be federally prosecuted (unless it took place on federal property or in the District of Columbia).

The Seventh Amendment deals with civil suits in federal courts, and does not expressly require that any jury selected in a federal court be impartial. The Seventh Amendment is not, by itself, applicable to cases in state courts.

However, the Fourteenth Amendment (sec. 1) provides in the Due Process clause that: “. . . nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . .” Under the Fourteenth Amendment, the deprivation of an impartial jury in a state court, whether in a civil or criminal case, would be a violation of due process by a state, and thus prohibited.

So, if this is a federal civil action, I would say the Fifth Amendment, if a federal criminal prosecution, the Sixth Amendment, and if it is in state court, whether civil or criminal, it would be the Fourteenth Amendment.

Good luck with your teacher.

Well, at least I’m out of this school in May… I think I can put up with Teacher 'till then. In the mean time, I’m learning outside of class… and this incident will cause me to remember which amendment says what…

It’s really bad when you can’t trust you teacher to not be totally wrong at least once a week… I’ve been taking what he says with a shaker of salt.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined exactly the opposite. In U.S. v. Zucker, 161 U.S. 481, (1896), the Court expressly held that the Sixth Amendment only relates to the criminal prosecution of an accused person, not to a proceeding civil in nature.

The right to an impartial jury is an important part of constitutional Due Process, but that applies to federal civil trials by the Fifth Amendment and state trials by the Fourteenth.

I would add to Billdo’s post, just to clarify, that while the Supreme Court has held that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that states must provide the right to trial by jury in a criminal case found in the Sixth Amendment, it has expressly held that the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate the right to trial by jury in civil cases found in the Seventh Amendment. You have no right to a jury trial in a civil trial in state court, but if you are subjected to an unfair or unequal treatment in a state court you have an argument that there has been a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection or Due Process clauses. A biased jury selection procedure would fit the bill.

In other words, the state doesn’t have to give you a jury trial in a civil case, but if they do it must be a fair and impartial one.

How does a civil suit get into a federal court? Does that occur when the two parties are across state lines? Or is it a factor of the amount of money involved, or what?

Basically two ways:

  1. Federal Question: Where someone sues on a trademark infringement or some other federal statute; or

  2. Diversity: Where people from two different (diverse) states have a dispute over $75,000

So, in a trademark dispute for under $75,000, there need not be a jury, right?

In what court does a case with two people from different states, for under $75,000, take place?