My former colleague and now Justice Russ Brown used to write about civil juries. We liked (I say liked because I still do but I am not sure what Justice Brown thinks today) them.
What is even more cool is that she is blogging about the origins of civil juries.
She has so far blogged three parts:
Here is an excerpt from part 3:
The previous post stated that the jury was originally self-informing. Jurors came to court knowing their verdict, without any instructional proceeding. This was possible because almost all jurors came from small, tight-knit villages in which everyone knew everyone else’s business.
That state of affairs did not survive the greatest catastrophe of the age: the Black Death. In little over a year, from 1348 to 1349, the bubonic plague is estimated to have killed between 30 and 40 percent of the population of England. [See John H. Langbein, Renée Lettow Lerner, and Bruce P. Smith, History of the Common Law: The Development of Anglo-American Legal Institutions 225 (2009).] In the aftermath of this almost unimaginable death, to put it gently, society changed. The mobility of labor greatly increased; persons were no longer tied to the land and didn’t necessarily know their neighbors or local events well. Jurors could no longer be counted on to come to court knowing what to say.
So a method had to be found to instruct the jurors about what had happened. That method was oral trial, presided over by a royal judge. The method could hardly have been written evidence, as in Chancery or on the continent, because few jurors could read.
This is very cool stuff for civil jury nerds. You should read all three posts and stay tuned for more, if you are also a civil jury nerd.