Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Sunday, November 2, 2014


            Should corporations be entitled to have corporate jurors on their jury?  Typically, people accused of wrongful acts—whether criminal or tortious—have a right to a trial by a jury of their peers.  But, corporations are not people. Yet, corporations are often sued for their misconduct.  So, how can a corporation be given a jury of its peers? 

            Corporations are legal fictions created by statute.  Corporations are treated as “artificial persons” that have a lot of the same rights as individuals—this is called “corporate personhood.”  For more in depth discussion click here.  The idea behind corporate personhood is that corporations are owned and controlled by people and speak through their officers—who are people—thus corporations should be afforded the same rights as people.  Corporations are even afforded similar constitutional rights under the U.S. Constitution—which includes the right to a trial by jury of its peers. 

But, corporations are not receiving a trial of its peers.  A corporation’s peers are other legal fictions, not people that sit in a jury box when the corporation is being sued.  Albeit, the jurors deciding the corporation’s fate could be officers of corporations, but that is not likely.

Corporations should receive a jury of its peers because it increases fairness.  There are vast numbers of articles challenging the fairness of defendants not receiving a jury of its peers.  The primary example is when racial minorities have juries that are completely or almost completely white.  Advocates for justice claim this is not fair—especially in jurisdictions where the racial minority outnumbers whites.

There are two ways in which a corporation could be provided a trial of its peers.  First, corporations could be treated as people in a general sense and be served summons in all types of cases.  In this scenario, corporations would be treated no differently than people.  Corporation would be able to receive juror summons and would have to report for jury duty.  Of course, corporations cannot report for jury duty, so the corporation would have to act through its officers.  Thus, its officers would have to report for jury duty.  This scenario would particularly attractive in tort claims where a person brings suit against a corporation.  Ideally, the jury would consist of both regular people and corporations—really officers of the corporation.  But, this is a broad scenario and would be quite difficult to implement.

Second, corporations could sit on juries for very specified cases like breach of contract between two corporations.  Again, corporations are unable to sit on juries, so the jury would consist of officers from different corporations.  Because both parties in the lawsuit are corporations, it would make sense that every juror be a corporation—because a corporation’s peers are other corporations.

So, corporations should be afforded a jury of its peers because it would increase fairness for corporations.  The U.S. Constitution affords individuals the right to a trial of his or her peers.  Why should corporations not be afforded the same?

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