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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 28 Mar 2014

-Thoughts On State Con-Cons


LawBooksFIJA Board Member Margi Crook shares her thoughts on constitutional conventions, in light of a recent resolution passed by the Georgia state legislature calling for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

Thoughts On State Con-Cons

My first thought on hearing that the Georgia legislature has passed a resolution to hold a convention of states, was that if the federal government cannot abide by its oath to uphold the Constitution, why should we believe that those same legislators will listen to resolutions passed in an Article V convention of the states. Even if they did limit themselves to one resolution rather than re-writing the Constitution.

Really! I can remember asking my US representative to vote against some bill. His response was, “I am sorry that we do not agree, but we are going to pass it anyway.” I wrote him again and told him that if he would abide by his oath to uphold the Constitution, that we would agree. They are going to do as they please, and swearing an oath means nothing to them.

In 1787, there was a Constitutional Convention, also known as the Philadelphia Convention, which was convened in Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. The intention of many of the proponents was actually to create a new government, rather than revise the Articles of Confederation. It was a runaway convention which gave us the Constitution for the United States as we know it today. The Articles of Confederation were gone forever.

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She wraps up with this insightful quote, particularly relevant to our rights as jurors:

I’ll end with a quote from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, Warren Burger. He wrote: “…there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress ‘for the sole and express purpose.’”

Ratified just a few years after the end of the American Revolutionary War, which resulted in part from grievances over denial of the benefits of trial by jury, the current United States Constitution has numerous provisions meant to guarantee due process and the benefits of trial by jury. But in a time when our government has sees to throw these supposedly guaranteed rights under the bus in favor of more expedient and efficient paths to conviction and imprisonment of those who are accused, and in a culture that has been trained by government that our rights are what the government tells us they are, one might wonder what would be the fate of trial by jury and jurors’ right to conscientiously acquit through jury nullification if those in charge see fit to scrap the current Constitution and start fresh.

(Link via Dispatch-Resister.)