Celebrate Constitution Day

September 17 marks Constitution Day, commemorating the 1787 date on which thirty-nine of the Philadelphia Convention’s delegates signed the new Constitution.  This year’s theme is one near and dear to lawyers’ hearts – jury service.  Juries as we know them first took shape in 12th century England, under the reign of Henry II.  These early panels did not quite provide a jury of one’s peers, but they were a decided improvement over trial by combat, where the disputing parties or their chosen delegates beat one another savagely until only one was left standing.  So when you receive your jury summons, think of it this way:  although you may be mildly inconvenienced, you may also be saving someone from a UFC-style beat-down!

Jury service in the United States has also resulted in numerous contributions to pop culture, ranging from the great (Twelve Angry Men), to the mediocre (Runaway Jury), to the downright awful (Pauly Shore’s Jury Duty).  And, don’t forget all the work provided to New York City extras during the twenty-year run of Law & Order.  Think of it as Henry II’s economic stimulus package.

Further reading:

The American Jury System by Randolph N. Jonakait, KF8972 .J66 2003.

The Palladium of Justice by Leonard W. Levy, KD 7540 L48 1999.