Our nation is engaged in a robust debate about the Second Amendment. On one side, proponents of gun control focus on the Amendment’s first clause, arguing that “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” necessarily permits the regulation of guns. Opponents of gun control, focus on the Amendment’s second clause, arguing that there is no ambiguity in the phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The debate is passionate with common references to liberty, tyranny and the right to be free.

Yet, when we come to the Seventh Amendment, an equally important pillar of the Bill of Rights, there is no debate about Corporate America’s successful elimination – through mandatory arbitration -- of our right to trial by jury. This is so even though the VII Amendment is clear that “[i]n Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.”  

When discussing the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment is often held up as a check on excessive government power. The Seventh Amendment is no less important in our constitutional system of checks and balances. As the Supreme Court observed over 100 years ago, “[t]he right to sue and defend in the courts is the alternative of force.”  Thomas Jefferson even said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."  

Yet, our present day Supreme Court has eviscerated our right to trial by jury.  Instead, corporations are free to bury mandatory arbitration clauses into non-negotiated, one-sided consumer contracts where consumers are forced into a private system of non-reviewable “justice” paid for by corporations. This is not right, not fair, and fundamentally at odds with the basic rights of Americans. While we applaud civic activism and the passion focused on the Second Amendment, that same energy should also be focused on the Seventh Amendment’s right to trial by jury.