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Six Person Jury Statute Stricken by Illinois Supreme Court

Tort partisans are digesting the impact of yesterday’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a statute that cut civil juries from 12 to 6. The same statute also increased increased juror pay to $50 per day, after the 1st two days. The statute was widely disliked by insurers, which see 40-50% of all mesothelioma cases filed in Illinois. Two years ago, the statute passed just before Republican Bruce Rauner beat Democrat Patrick J. Quinn for the governor’s office.

According to a September 22, 2016 article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (paywall):

“Chief Justice Rita B. Garman and the high court majority wrote the phrase “as heretofore enjoyed” has long been construed to mean the right as it existed and as enjoyed when the constitution was adopted….

On that front, Garman wrote there was “ample evidence that the drafters at the 1970 Constitutional Convention believed they were specifically preserving the right to a 12-person jury” when they approved the constitution.

She cited debates in which the drafters considered, but ultimately rejected, an idea to allow lawmakers to approve juries of between six and 12 people while allowing verdicts with only three-quarters approval rather than unanimous consent.

“Because the size of the jury — 12 people — was an essential element of the right of trial by jury enjoyed at the time the 1970 Constitution was drafted, we conclude jury size is an element of the right that has been preserved and protected in the constitution,” she wrote in the decision.

Robert Marc Chemers, a senior equity partner at Pretzel & Stouffer Chtd. who opposed the law and represented the defendants in the case, said his team is “incredibly pleased with the result, as the decision protects one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed to every Illinois citizen.

The case is James Kakos, etc., et al., appellants, v. Jerry Bauer, etc., et al, No. 120377.”

About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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