Since its inception in America on December 15th, 1791, the Seventh Amendment has given us the right to a jury for a fair trial. This is so that judges, who are government officials, won’t give us a one-way ticket straight to jail if they believe that what the plaintiff is saying against us is true in a civil suit that exceeds twenty dollars. Now today, twenty dollars may not seem like much to us now (thanks inflation!) but twenty dollars was very valuable back in the time our Founding Fathers was forming the Constitution. This amendment grants us, the citizens, the right to let our case be heard by common people like us so that government officials won’t have too much power in ruling how the overall lawsuit will turn out. If a King or President elect you to be a judge in court, and you feel that you owe your position to that King or President, that can possibly cloud your judgment in civil suits and thus give the government more power over the people. Also, with no jury, the judges can interpret the law in their own way and skew the outcome of the trials. They’ll have the incentive to just take the accused to jail as fast as they see fit if they personally feel like they broke any laws according to their unique interpretation. The reexamination clause forbids that any evidence that was deemed factual by the previous jury can be overturned or reexamined by another jury at a later date.
I feel that this amendment is extremely important because it forbids either party from overstepping their bounds. Judges can’t solely control the case and juries can’t throw out justified laws that will protect the plaintiffs. The power is spread out equally between both parties: The judges get to decide specifically which laws apply to the case while the juries determine the facts of the case. This immensely helps us as citizens by having people like us who wouldn’t have the motivation to find us guilty by default and would rather take the time to look at the evidence presented in a case and make their decision. The Seventh Amendment ensures that in a civil case, it would take more than just an official’s word against you. Additionally, the Seventh Amendment prohibits facts tried by a jury to be reexamined by another court at a later date than according to the rules of the common law. This is also extremely important because it makes sure that no jury verdict is overturned when it’s reasonably supported by the evidence presented at the original trial.
An example of how effective the Seventh Amendment would be is the Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., (1998) case. After finding out that Feltner’s company, Krypton International Corporation, was running three Columbia owned shows after Columbia terminated their licensing agreements and weren’t receiving royalty payments, Columbia sued Feltner for copyright infringement. Columbia had won partial summary judgment and went forward to recover statutory damages, exercising their right to sue under the Copyright Act of 1976. Feltner had requested a jury trial but the District Court denied his request and awarded Columbia $8,800,000 after a bench trial. When Feltner appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, they had only defended the stance that both section 504(c) of the Copyright Act and the Seventh Amendment did not provide a right to a jury trial when it came down to statutory damages. The case was then turned over to the Supreme Court, who had granted a certiorari, a writ or order to review a case from a lower court. After deciding on whether a jury should be allowed to a defendant for statutory damages, The Court held that when there are statutory damages involved, the defendant has a right to a jury in order to honor and preserve the common-law right of trial by jury clause of the Seventh Amendment. Thanks to this outcome, if a person requests for a jury for any copyright infringement they have been accused of, they will now have the right to have a trial by jury since the Seventh Amendment grants them that right. Also, the juries will have the power to determine the amount of statutory damages that will be awarded to the copyright owner. Once all the evidence has been presented to the jury, if they consider it a factual piece of evidence, no other court will re-examine these facts at a later date.
As I grow older into a young adult and venture out into the world by myself, I’ve become more aware of the many different laws and clauses of those laws that are present here in America. In college, I’m going to major in Music along with minoring in Music Business. While I deeply love music and always had, music is, after all, a business at the end of the day. Knowing the business side of music is essential if I ever want to become successful in the music business. I currently write songs and play music on my guitar which seems like the Seventh Amendment wouldn’t necessarily fit here but it actually does. If I make a melody along to a song I have written and performed it but one party thinks that the melody I made is actually too reminiscent to the melody they made, which is copyrighted and I didn’t pay any royalties, I can be sued for copyright infringement. While I definitely don’t try to copy anybody else, there is, unfortunately, only 12 notes in the Western musical alphabet. Some notes are bound to go together into a chord progression more than once in history. There’s only so many recombinations one could make with these notes. If I ever get sued by anybody, I would have a right to have a trial by jury and not have the judge solely make the ending decision. I would have the input from fellow citizens who are like me to assess the facts of the case and determine if I should make payments and how much to pay to the copyright owner. Any verdict determined by that jury won’t be re-examined by any other court in the U.S., making the jury’s verdict final. The Seventh Amendment is crucial and significant to us as citizens in America, whether it be a lawsuit about copyright infringement, a faulty product from a company that endangered us, or discrimination. The Seventh Amendment grants us, the people, power within our own government to give fair trials to everyone.