"Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle and fed and clothed like swine and hounds." John Adams, 2nd President of the United States (1774) (1)
The Drum Major Institute’s Civil Justice Presidential Platform is just the launching point for a discussion on the importance of electing a national leader who will prioritize citizens over corporations and democracy over dollars. Identifying the challenges and common-sense solutions is important, as is engaging the candidates in dialogue about their level of commitment to civil justice. Ultimately, ordinary citizens who value the empowerment provided through the civil courts play the most important role. This electorate must require that the elected move beyond rhetoric and vague campaign slogans and actually take the action that would strengthen our civil justice system and have a real, positive impact on Americans’ lives.
Let us hold the candidates accountable for the promises they make. Will they commit to increasing the effectiveness of how the government regulates the products we use every day? Will they take to task on curbing irresponsible corporate behavior that makes access to the civil justice system necessary? Will they dedicate energy to preserving the public’s access to the courts? Will they do so with sensible policies and common-sense approaches to the problem?
Imagine how average Americans’ lives would be changed if the next President dedicated his or her work to strengthening the civil justice system in order to empower and protect American citizens. The civil courts would not just be a forum for large corporate powers to battle each other, but for the individuals for whom it was designed. Average people could uphold their rights as consumers, employees, and citizens to be free from harmful products and foods, safe from medical negligence, protected from insurance fraud and corporate abuse. And if they could not afford a lawyer, but had basic rights and interests at stake, they could obtain adequate legal counsel to help them navigate the system. In short, a pro-Civil Justice President would make justice possible for more Americans.
Because it protects us, the civil justice system deserves our protection. And because the public pays for it, the common American citizen should have as much access to the courts as any corporate power does. Civil justice impacts regular Americans’ access to economic justice, consumer protection, public safety, civil rights, environmental justice, and more. America needs a President who recognizes this connection and makes a sincere commitment—evidenced in his or her actions—to preserving access to justice by pursuing a pro-civil justice agenda while in office.
(1) American Association for Justice, No Price-tag on Constitutional Rights (2006) available at http://www.atla.org/pressroom/TrialbyJury.aspx.