Six Person Jury Law Eliminated

Cook County Judge William Gomolinski of the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled that the Illinois Constitution guarantees a right to a twelve-person jury, striking down the six-person jury law.  On December 21, 2015, he issued a twenty-seven page memorandum opinion and order declaring 735 ILCS 5/2-1105 unconstitutional.

Public Act 98-1132, changed the size amount of jurors in civil trials from twelve members to six.  The Act took effect on June 1, 2015, and a month later, a civil lawsuit was filed in the Law Division, namely Kakos v. Butler, 2015 L 6691.  The defendants of the suit filed a motion to have the six person jury provision declared unconstitutional.

The court looked to the Illinois Constitution and even observed that delegates to past Illinois Constitutional Conventions had traditionally acknowledged that a twelve person jury was the standard.  Specifically, the delegates of the 1970 Constitutional Convention considered, and rejected, an amendment that would have allowed the General Assembly to limit jury sizes to six members.  Judge Gomolinski also maintained that the Illinois Supreme Court has, on several occasions, defined the jury right as one involving a twelve person jury.

Finally, as a matter of public policy, the court held that there was evidence that smaller juries do not represent an accurate cross-section of the public and that decreasing jury sizes decreases accuracy and predictability of verdicts.

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