In Defence of Juries

In Defence of Juries

In past Bonn Law Blawgs I’ve fully agreed with Toronto Sun Columnist, Alan Shanoff. I cannot support his most recent column from July 5, 2014 in which he writes that it is time to end civil jury trials. While I agree with many of his points, the jury is fundamental to our system of law. In Ontario a civil jury is made up of 6 individuals from the community (not 12 that is reserved for criminal cases only). At the most basic level, a jury is protection for everyone from state power. Judges are appointed by government officials.

As with everyone, they come with their own inherent bias and prejudices. At least with a jury there are 6 people deciding on the facts of the case, with a judge there is only 1 person deciding the facts. Our justice system was founded on the jury system. A civil justice system should reflect the community’s values and beliefs. If lawyers and judges do not agree with decisions made by juries, then maybe, it is the lawyers and judges who need to change and not the justice system. Lawyers and judges work in a closed environment. We typically have a narrow view of cases. I am always amazed when I present a case to a focus group of people from our community and what facts they find important. Many times these are different than what I thought the case was actually about.

In his column, Mr. Shanoff does not advocate eliminating the jury for criminal trials, only for civil trials. Why should there be a difference? In a personal injury jury trial, people’s lives are at a stake. A person who is seriously injured may not be able to return to work and needs to support a family. The legal case against the insurance company for compensation may be the person’s only chance for a life with dignity and security. Now, while I may not agree with every decision a jury makes, we need the jury system in Ontario for civil cases. I trust my neighbours to listen to the evidence and make a fair and balanced decision. There are other and better strategies for reducing the length of trials and we need to focus on those strategies and not the elimination of our juries.

Kristian Bonn, Personal Injury Lawyer

Bonn Law Office, Trenton/Belleville, ON