Michael Downing

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“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . .” But what about civil prosecutions? What about prosecutions under state law, not federal? What does the universally expected “right to a jury trial” really mean or afford the parties to a trial?

Under federal law and the United States Constitution, by the time the Bill of Rights was drafted, the ideal of an accused’s right to a jury trial was already deeply rooted within society. However, the right to a jury trial is only guaranteed by the United States Constitution for criminal prosecutions—in fact the right to a jury trial is arguably weaker than the average person thinks. The Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, in federal prosecutions, does not apply to civil cases, may be waived by parties, and does not necessarily apply to prosecutions under state law.