U S Senate Votes to Override Bill of Rights
Last night, the United States Senate blocked an effort to restore a neglected part of America’s Bill of Rights: The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.
The Seventh Amendment grantees a jury in civil cases; cases where people are suing other people, or corporations. (The better known Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to trial by jury in a criminal case.)
The erosion of the Seventh Amendment goes back to 1925. That’s when Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act. The Federal Arbitration Act allowed parties to a contract to agree to resolve disputes in a private, secret proceeding. In the last twenty years, big businesses of all stripes have gotten you to “agree” in fine print. That fine print is in the terms and conditions you sign almost every time you do business with a big business. Your constitutional right is lost.
After the financial crisis, in 2010, Congress specifically asked the CFPB to look at arbitration clauses.
After five years of study, on July 10, 2017, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau outlawed that fine print surrender of your right to a jury. Starting in 2019 banks and other consumer finance companies and credit bureaus would NOT be allowed to force consumers away from as trial by jury into an arbitration. The Senate, voting 51-50, blocked the CFPB rule. The Senate let the banks, finance companies and credit bureaus to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Taking away your trial by jury right in fine print.
Consumer advocates loudly supported the CFPB rule and denounced the Senate vote. But the people who like to talk about the constitution were silent. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) sponsored the law, saying there is no evidence that consumer are better off with the right to a jury trial. He wants to see “evidence” that we need that right. According to Sen. Crapo, the fact that a right is in the constitution is not evidence enough
Trial By Jury Was Important to the Founders
During the ratification of the constitution, the right to a jury trial kept coming up in the debates. Trial by jury was long established in English law, but the Crown had narrowed those rights for the American colonies. The states feared that the Federal government might someday start acting like the king. The specific right to a jury trial in civil cases was demanded as protection for the average citizen against the power of the wealthy. Patrick Henry was one of those who made that argument. Today the Federal Arbitration Act and fine print agreement have swept away the right to a jury trial. Just as Henry, and the others feared.