Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Six-Person Jury Law as Unconstitutional
By: Danielle N. Malaty
In a 5-0 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a law that cut civil juries in half (P.A. 98-1132, eff. June 1, 2015) and further held that the right to a trial by jury includes the right to demand a 12-member jury. Upholding the Circuit Court’s determination, Justice Rita B. Garman, writing for the Court, ruled that the law was facially unconstitutional, as it limited the size to a six-person civil jury. This provision was widely considered to favor the plaintiff’s bar, rendering this new development a victory for defendants in civil jury cases. Opponents of the overturned provision believe that strong, overpowering personalities can dominate smaller jury panels, making them more prone to awarding higher verdicts in personal injury suits, whereas 12-person juries provide defendants with a greater opportunity to contain or limit damages. Because the law was deemed void ab initio, parties once again have the right to demand 12-person juries.
For more information or questions on how this pertains to cases you are handling please e-mail the author here.