Constitutional Law

Illinois law reducing civil juries to six people is unconstitutional, state's top court rules

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The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down an Illinois law that reduced civil juries from 12 to six people.

The court ruled (PDF) on Sept. 22 that the law violated the Illinois Constitution, which guarantees “the right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed,” report the Associated Press, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Peoria Public Radio.

The law reducing jury size had also increased juror pay to $25 on the first day of service and to $50 for each additional day. The court struck down the pay increase, saying that provision was intended to work in tandem with the provision decreasing jury size.

The Supreme Court ruled in a challenge to the law by defendants in a medical malpractice suit. Critics of the law said it was intended to benefit trial lawyers because smaller juries are less deliberative and more apt to award higher damages in personal-injury cases.

Christopher Hurley, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that there are no conclusive studies showing six-person juries are more favorable to one side or the other. His group will always back legislation increasing jury pay, he said.

“I don’t know of any lawyer who would be opposed to that,” he told the publication.

The case is Kakos v. Butler.

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