I know I’ve discussed whether you should seek a jury trial before, but I want to give it a new look for this set of videos. In my view, debt defendants should always ask for jury trials if they have the right to them, and most of them do have that right.
Your Right under the Constitution
Under constitutional law, you have a right to jury trial under the 7th amendment for most “legal” claims. “Legal” in this sense is a term of art referring to the historical development of the English courts. Suffice it to say that most claims “sounding in” breach of contract are “legal” claims. Account stated, on the other hand, is not, so if the credit card company is suing you ONLY for account stated, you probably don’t have a right to jury trial, but for almost all other credit card or loan based claims you do. And if the plaintiff is suing you for breach of contract and account stated, you will have a right to jury trial that will, in all likelihood, control the whole case.
So most of the people watching this video or reading this article will have a right to jury trial. Should you take it?
I think yes for a couple of reasons.
Judges and Lawyers Take Jury Trials More Seriously
The primary reason is that judges and the other side will take jury trials more seriously. This means that the judge will be much more careful about what kinds of evidence to allow the jury to see, and since that is the heart of much of our defense, this is a very good thing. It isn’t that a judge should allow hearsay to affect his or her decision, it’s that the judge will pay much closer attention to your argument that something IS hearsay if he or she is worried about a jury hearing it. It’s just a more serious kind of case.
And the second reason is that it IS a more serious kind of case. Although a judge-held trial could last half an hour, a jury trial will be measured in hours or possibly days if there are any complications. That’s because the jury has to be selected, as much as anything, and that takes time. The difference in cost of attorney time could easily be a thousand dollars, and debt collectors don’t like to put that kind of money into cases like this. It’s just the way they do business, not that they fear them or anything.
Jury Trials are NOT Scary
But should you fear them?
It might sound like a jury trial is a bigger deal for a shy or intimidated person, and it is true that they are somewhat more complicated, and you’re playing to people in the jury rather than just the judge. But although that’s true, you will probably find, in real life, that it doesn’t matter. Juries are just as easy to talk to as judges, and if you’re caught up in your case it’s probably even easier to talk to the jury. They’re much more like you than the judge is.
There are factors you’ll need to consider as you prepare for the case, but in making your decision on whether or not to demand a jury that’s probably all you need to know. The judge will be more serious, the defendant will like the case less, and the jury will be easier to talk to than the judge. In general. So we suggest you ask for a jury trial. Find out your court’s rules on asking for one before you file your answer if that is possible.