Friday, May 18, 2018

Interpreting the Constitution Based on Modern Fads Is a Mistake

Ryan J. Owens, a political science professor at UW-Madison, a faculty affiliate at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, and the Acting Director of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership, with an op-ed in The Weekly Standard.
"When the Framers crafted the Constitution, they included a provision in the Sixth Amendment that guaranteed criminal defendants the right to a trial by jury. At that time—and hundreds of years prior in common law—a 'jury' meant a panel of 12 people. Yet, in Williams [v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970)], the Court turned its back on legal history and allowed states to empanel juries of only six. In a sweeping comment that disrespected our constitutional forebears’ sacrifices, the Court declared that a jury of 12 was nothing other than 'a historical accident, unnecessary to effect the purposes of the jury system and wholly without significance except to mystics.' An interpretation based on what the text of the Constitution meant when drafted would not have produced this liberty-swallowing decision."