With Miranda reading required at the
time of arrest, suspects in criminal actions are now abridged of their right to all
aspects of protection under the Constitution, said Rosenberg. Palmer noted the
significance of the Sixth, in his opinion,
lays in the designation of the right to trial
by; that jury being of the accused peers.
But it doesn't determine in what court
the case shall be tried, that right is
enumerated in the Seventh.
"In suits of common law, where the
value in controversy shall exceed twenty
dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be
preserved, and no fact tried by a jury
shall be otherwise re-examined in any
court of the United States, then according to the rules of the common law."
This, the Seventh Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States of
America, is one of the least sighted of
rights guaranteed to the people. In as
much as most citizens recognize their
right to a trial by "an impartial jury" (as
stated in the Sixth Amendment) the Seventh Amendment reads rather vague.
According to Palmer, "The Seventh is
a liberty protecting device," and the
monetary value it describes is no longer
effective. While the monetary requirement for Federal lawsuits has gone from
$20, mentioned by the amendment, to a
$10,000 minimum today, the purpose of
the article has little change.
"The value of a jury trial is in favor of
liberty and not justice, it preserves the
right of the people to strike back at government," said Palmer.
In the 18th century when this amendment was conceived, the authors of the
Bill of Rights intentions dated back to
the Zinger or trial. According to Palmer,
a colonial governor had tried to circumvent common law jury by resorting to
"equity." By not using juries, the governor could direct the outcome of the
The problem arose again, said Palmer,
right before the American Revolution
when people wanted to put British troops
accused of wrongs on trial by jury. The
problem here being that the jury was not
interested in the facts, just who the person was. That is why a trial by jury became a protector of liberty and not justice as commonly believed.
The protection of liberty of the individual from the state, according to Palmer, is the reason for this constitutional
The conscience of the people, it was
felt can better judge the circumstances,
within the law's definition.
Washington, D.C. has more homeless per capita than any other state. Photo by Mark Lacy.
The greatest threat to civil liberties is the current presidential
administration, stated Laughlin
McDonald, in the keynote address of the 1988 TCLU Statewide Activists' Conference.
"Beyond Reagan: Civil Liberties Challenges of the 1990s/'
cosponsored by the Texas Civil
Liberties Union — Houston
Chapter was held at the Hilton
College Building on January 30.
Members participated in panel
discussions and workshops to
learn more about the challenges
the organization will face In the
The Supreme Court under the
Reagan administration has broken a trend begun in the 1960s
that has been pro-civil rights,
according to McDonald director
of the ALCU Southern Regional
Office. Congress, on the other
hand, has proven to be an ally to
the organization. An example he
used was rejection of Robert
Bork to the high court.
He stated that the Supreme
Court's support of civil rights is
fragile and that any more appointments by Reagan could tilt
the Court to even more conservative leanings.
The ACLU has learned valuable lessons from the 1980s that
they plan to put to greater use in
the next decade. The McDonald
Administration changes and the
upcoming 1990 census will play
an important role in the continued success of the ACLU.
The reapportion of federal and
state districts following the 1990
census will change representation in over 20 states, Texas being one of them. The ACLU has
already begun to establish committees to ensure that the gains
they have made in this area will
not be lost.
'We have accomplished a lot.
We know how we did it. We
know what works and that there
are solutions. We must continue
the fight," McDonald said.
Following the opening speech
was a panel discussion on
"Shaping Public Opinion" with
James Gibson, a political sci
ence professor, and Jann Snell,
associate editor of the Bryan Eagle.
"We thought most of you left
[ACLU members] when Nixon
resigned, Reagan brought a lot of
you pack I see," said Gibson.
Gibson presented his findings
of a recent survey which showed
that in the abstract, 71% of the
population gave allegiance to the
basic concepts of free speech
and assembly. Fifty percent of
the population were against allowing unpopular political, minorities such as the American
Nazi Party, freedom to express
"Tolerance is difficult to acquire, it is cognitive and intellectual rather than emotional.
Institutional actions and the
government teach American
people intolerance," said Gib
son. "We simply keep our
mouths shut about politics.'1
"We want people to think better of the Bill of Rights. The average person does not understand these rights and as a
consequence their rights are violated every day," said Gara
LaMarche, TCLU Executive Director.
— Lara Schultz