Juries: The Other Fourth Branch

This show has repeatedly drawn attention to administrative agencies – the so-called “fourth branch of government” – and their unconstitutional take-over of legislative and judicial functions. Before revisiting this troubling erosion of checks and balances, we have some more hopeful news. Suja Thomas, Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Law School, speaks and writes of a different “fourth branch” that was actually intended by the founders: juries. The American tradition of jury trials, borrowed from English common law, is known around the world as an exceptional feature of our government "of the people, by the people and for the people." Thomas Jefferson said, "The jury is the greatest anchor ever devised by human kind for holding a government to the principles of its constitution." But with just 4% of criminal cases and around 1% of civil cases actually making it to a jury trial, this check on the other three branches of government has clearly been weakened. Bob and his producer, Charlie Deist, discuss her book, The Missing American Jury: Restoring the Fundamental Constitutional Role of the Civil, Criminal, and Grand Juries* along with the classic movie, 12 Angry Men, and the controversial idea of jury nullification.