I know we’re Americans and talking to Americans about giving up constitutional rights is a little like talking Wile-E-Coyote out of his Acme membership. But a little time working a small claims court jury trial got me thinking about something: why on this great green earth do we need six unfortunate taxpayers to spend time and money deciding a simple case over less than 2,500 bucks? After all, can’t a judge just settle a minor dispute rather than dragging in you, Aunt Edna, and a room full of people clutching Jury Summonses like they drew the winning number in one of those “feed the virgin to the dragon” lotteries. I mean, can’t the judge just do like Judge Judy and solve the problem, yell at the litigants and then cut to commercial break?
If only it were that easy. You see, the constitution guarantees nearly every litigant the right to a trial by jury if requested – regardless of how small the claim. So the answer basically is: everyone gets a jury if they ask for one. But my cosmic question is: should they? Have our courts gotten so crowded that maybe it’s time to trim that right a tad and let judges decide small cases under say $2,500? Is it time to shave just a hair off our jury right for certain uncomplicated, lowdollar cases?
There it is: that cry from the constitutional scholar at the back of the room saying: “Cession of any fundamental right is too much. First Judge Judy came for my neighbor; Then she came forme” . . . I get it. But let’s ask ourselves next time it’s 4 p.m. and we’re sitting through the third showing of “Home Alone“ in that crowded jury room waiting to hear a three-year-old case over $1,500 – whether maybe it’s not time to give Judge Judy her due and take a little load off our taxpayers.
Russel Lazega is an attorney and author of several of Florida’s most widely distributed legal textbooks on Florida Insurance Law: West’s Florida Practice Series Volume 7 and West’s Florida Insurance Law & Practice. Mr. Lazega represents accident victims, insurance policyholders and condominium associations and is based in Dania Beach, Tallahassee, North Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Contact: www.Lazegalaw.com.