Our Threatened Freedom
Done Any Jury Duty Lately? (04:16)
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Done any jury duty lately? This is R.J. Rushdoony with a report on our threatened freedom. One of the first reactions of many people to a jury duty summons is to try to get excused. After all, jury duty does not pay much. It does take time away from our work and activities, and most cases are definitely on the dull side.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:25 All too often, the same person who complains about jury duty will also complain about our rotten courts, bad decisions, and what’s wrong with our country. What they forget is that our form of civil government places much of the decision making power into the hands of the people. Jury duty gives the people a tremendous power. It is significant that we do call it a duty and not a privilege. Not many people summoned for jury duty would appear if the summons lacked a legal clout, but it is a privilege.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:07 In a jury trial, the jury is the judge. This is a tremendous power, and a very basic one to our form of government. The function of a judge in a jury trial is to explain the law to the jury, and to indicate the areas of jurisdiction which the jury has. Even more, very few agencies in the American forum of civil government have powers approaching those of a grand jury. However, when I looked up the subject of juries in a 400 page book on law for laymen, I found there was indeed a section on jury duty, but it’s title was, quote, “Exemption from jury duty,” unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:56 Apparently all that most readers want to know about our jury duty is how to get out of it. A handbook on law for our ministers gives a brief sketch on the kinds of juries and not much more. Schoolbooks, including textbooks on the constitution are not too much better. The important fact is that the jury system was one of our greatest means of establishing the people’s freedom from sadists and legal injustices and tyrannies. We talk much today about freedom of speech and freedom of press, and rightly so. They are important. However, the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment give six words to freedom of speech and only four to freedom of the press.
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:45 On the other hand, not only is the jury mentioned in the Fifth Amendment, but it is the subject of the Sixth and Seventh Amendments. Very plainly, the American people in 1791 regarded the jury as very central and basic to their freedom. They would have found our unconcern horrifying and dangerous. As a matter of fact, both then and later there were many who held that the greater freedom enjoyed by the peoples of England and America was in a large measure a product of the jury system. They would have insisted that a sound jury system and responsible jurors are necessary for a people to be free from a repressive and unjust civil government. Juries in those days were seen as a defense against judges, as well as against bureaucrats and rulers. People then held that a judge as an officer of civil government could become an agent of the state rather than of justice.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:53 We have problems now not only with rulers and bureaucrats, but with judges and the juries. After all, a jury is a powerful instrument only in the hands of a free people. However, if a people do not want to be free, the jury system grows weaker and weaker, as it has today.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder
Podcast: Play in new window | Download