Jury Court

Jury Court


a court composed of jurors and one or more permanent judges. The jurors and the permanent (crown) judge do not usually constitute a single judicial division, their trial functions being strictly delimited.

The jury court emerged first in ancient Greece—for example, the heliastic court—and appeared subsequently in ancient Rome and the Slavic and German states. It reached its apogee with the establishment of the bourgeois order. In England, after the bourgeois revolution, the jury court, which had emerged there in the 13th century, was given expanded powers and competence. At the same time, grand juries of 12 to 23 jurors were instituted, with the power to decide whether to hand the accused over to the court for trial; also established were petit juries, of 12 jurors, which took part in the consideration of criminal cases and rendered a verdict on the guilt of the defendant.

During the 19th century, jury courts were introduced in one form or another in all the major countries of Europe—for example, in France in the course of the bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century and in Russia by the Judicial Reform of 1864. English colonists contributed to the development of the jury court in America. In the epoch of bourgeois revolutions and in the period of entrenchment of the power of the bourgeoisie, the ideologists of the bourgeoisie hailed the jury court as a form in which the people could take part in the administration of justice. In actual practice, however, restrictive property, educational, and other qualifications were established for jury selection from the very beginning.

In the epoch of imperialism, the monopolistic bourgeoisie has placed limitations of all kinds on the competence of the jury court or has done away with the jury court altogether.

In 1907 in Great Britain, for example, appeal of the decisions of jury courts was instituted, certain categories of cases previously under the jurisdiction of the jury courts were transferred to the police courts, and the grand jury was abolished. The participation of jurors is permitted only in instances strictly defined by law: cases involving indictable offenses (“A”-category offenses) and trial cases of summary jurisdiction, if the accused so requests. In all, jury courts in Great Britain try only about 3 percent of all criminal cases.

In the USA the jury court is more common than in Great Britain. Jury courts deal with a large number of civil cases and with all criminal cases except for minor offenses. In the Federal Republic of Germany, jury courts are convened, as necessary, in the Landämter to consider a strictly defined range of criminal cases.

In prerevolutionary Russia, the jury court was introduced by the Judicial Reform of 1864, which represented an advance over the prereform courts, which were organized by legal estate. In practice, however, the jury court was so constituted as to make it a pliant tool of the bourgeoisie.

In characterizing the jury court in prerevolutionary Russia, V. I. Lenin wrote: “The participation of people’s representatives in a court of justice is undoubtedly a democratic principle. The consistent application of this principle requires, in the first place, that the election of jurors should not be made conditional on qualifications, that is, the right to be chosen should not be restricted by educational, property, residential, or any other conditions. At present, because of the exclusion of workers, most of the jurors are often particularly reactionary petit bourgeois” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 22, pp. 74–75).


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