YES! JURY SIZE DOES MATTER
By: Amy L. Garland
Effective June 1, 2015 the law in Illinois changed so that a civil lawsuit would be heard by a jury panel of 6 and not 12. Before this law took effect, the parties of the lawsuit had a right to a 12 person jury but could elect to have a 6 person jury panel if both parties agreed. The new law eliminated the right to a 12 person jury panel in its entirety. See “DOES (JURY) SIZE MATTER?” by Erin S. Davis.
Approximately 1 month after the 6 person jury law went into effect, a medical malpractice case was filed and the defendants filed a motion demanding a 12 person jury and also sought a declaration that a 6 person jury was unconstitutional. On September 22, 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court in Kakos, D.D.S. et al v. Jesse Butler, M.D. et al. 2016 IL 120377; 2016 Ill. LEXIS 744 rendered an opinion declaring the 6 person jury law unconstitutional. Arguments made by the attorneys focused on how jury size could affect outcomes but the Supreme Court ultimately focused on the constitutionality of the new law. The Illinois Supreme Court examined the 1970 Constitution and the intent of the drafters and held that there was ample evidence that the right to a 12-person jury was preserved when drafting the Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court held that “[b]ecause the size of the jury – 12 people – was an essential element of the right of trial by jury enjoyed at the time the 1970 Constitution was drafted, we conclude jury size is an element of the right that has been preserved and protected in the constitution.” Kakos v. Butler, 2016 IL 120377, P28 (Ill. 2016)
The law reducing the size of a jury to 6 in a civil trial is unconstitutional and parties in civil cases have a right to a 12 person jury. Yes, apparently size does matter!