Opinion

Resist the efforts to limit or abolish trial by jury in civil cases

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To the Editor;

I enjoyed reading Brett Baber’s column about the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in “The Piscataquis” Observer for Aug. 16. He urged fellow conservatives to resist the efforts of big corporations, government, and some professional bodies to limit or abolish trial by jury in civil cases by imposing dispute resolution by arbitration. As an unabashed liberal lawyer from Massachusetts, I urge my friends and colleagues to resist this trend also.

The strategy Mr. Baber condemns is nothing less than a ploy to take from the hands of Americans one of the powers that free people have held for over a thousand years. In addition to the situations Mr. Baber mentioned, other transactions in which this power-grab is employed include admission into nursing homes, obtaining professional assistance from doctors, opening financial services accounts, buying a car, and even something as simple as ordering a hamburger at a restaurant! Arbitration “agreements” also frequently bar participation in class actions.

Maine consumers should be aware that courts in a number of states have refused to enforce these arbitration “agreements” between parties of unequal bargaining power. More courts should do the same, and citizens should not meekly accept that they have lost their right to trial by jury, no matter what a consumer contract may say.

James E. Rooks, Jr.
Sebec Lake

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