Did you know the original draft of the U.S. Constitution didn’t provide for the right to trial by jury? Or that as far back as 1215, the Magna Carta granted trial by jury? Or that at one time in American history, women and people of color were barred from serving on juries?
These are just some of the facts that young people will discover in the most recent publication, The Noblest Institution: A Guide to the Jury for Young People, from the presses of the New York State Bar Association’s Law, Youth and Citizenship Program.
Geared for grades 7 to 12, the publication was written by Brendan Randall, a history instructor at the Emma Willard School and a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School; George Gregory, retired supervisor of Social Studies Education, New York State Education Department; and Deborah Shayo, LYC director.
Along with tracing the historical and legal evolution of the American jury system, the booklet outlines the requirements of jury service; the actual jury selection process; the three amendments in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing trial by jury; and the differences between criminal and civil cases.
The booklet features other helpful teaching tools including the citation of actual cases that demonstrate principles; links to primary documents such as the Magna Carta and Constitution; and well-annotated footnotes that provide excellent resources for future lessons or projects.
Oliver Young of Buffalo, chair of the NYSBA’s Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship said, “We hope this book on the jury will be useful not only to the students but to their parents and teachers as well. We recognize the importance of citizens serving on juries and hope this book will inform them and encourage them to fulfill this civic duty.”
Shayo said, “In producing these materials, we wanted to provide something that kids could easily understand and that would get them thinking about critical issues about the American Jury.”
The publication is a timely tie-in with Law Day, which is celebrated annually on May 1. This year’s theme is The American Jury. The booklet also reflects the “national initiative on the jury,” which was launched by Robert J. Grey Jr., president of the American Bar Association, and advocates the promotion and improvement of the jury system.
Likewise, the booklet addresses Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s impetus toward jury reform and that effort’s three primary objectives: jury pools that truly reflect the communities from which members are selected; an efficient and effective jury system; and making jury service a positive experience for those who are summoned to serve.
Teachers and other educators will be able to order free copies of the publication online at the NYSBA Web site www.lycny.org and additional materials from the ABA’s Web site www.abanet.org/publiced/resources/jury_cases.html