|Special Juries in the Supreme Court|
|Lochlan F. Shelfer [View as PDF]|
123 Yale L.J. 208 (2013).
The Seventh Amendment mandates juries in federal courts for cases that would have required them at common law. Yet the nation’s highest federal court has presided over a jury trial in only one reported case, Georgia v. Brailsford (1794). The prospect of a jury trial in the Supreme Court makes the case intriguing enough. Brailsford, however, is even more well-known for its provocative language on the jury’s power to decide the law as well as the facts. Nevertheless, the trial remains largely unstudied. This Note examines the case’s extant documents and argues that the jury the Supreme Court used was a special jury of merchants in the tradition of Lord Mansfield. This conclusion offers insights into how the Supreme Court might negotiate a jury trial in a future case if the Seventh Amendment should demand it. Further, this Note’s finding provides a context to understand better Chief Justice Jay’s words on the jury’s authority to determine the law as well as the facts.