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Mike Bryant
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Budget Issues Threaten Jury Trials

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The state of New Hampshire is imposing a one month moratorium on Jury trials. This is a cost cutting measure and expected to save $73,000 in jurors’ per diems. Some have suggested that if it works, there will be more weeks added in 2009. Ellen J. Shemitz, executive director of the New Hampshire Assn. for Justice, which represents civil trial attorneys, said, "You’re talking about erosion of our fundamental civic fabric."

What does this mean if the idea spreads to other states? It gives the insurance companies no incentive to settle. For any person with a claim, they can either come to an agreement to settle their case or go to the jury to decide. If this option is suspended or taken away, what will be the pressure?

It’s clear that all sectors of society are seeing the affects of the severe economic downturn. But, if the constitutional right to a jury trial is stripped away, there really is a lot at stake in these fiscal choices. Tough times require tough choices, but the fundamentals of our country can’t be thrown aside if we are going to continue to stand for anything