The Jury as a Political Institution: An Internal Perspective

33 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2013

Date Written: February 15, 2013


Political institutions or practices are usually defined in contrast to legal or moral institutions or practices. All three terms have shifting meanings. I consider the ways in which the American jury trial can be considered a political institution in light of these possible contrasts. I describe the way in which Hannah Arendt, probably the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century (and a lover of such distinctions), changed her view of the contrast between the legal and the political, initially formed by consideration of law in the Third Reich, after her own experience as an American juror. I then review the ways in which the linguistic practices in which we actually engage at trial can be understood as political. Finally, I discuss two recent attempts to revitalize the American criminal jury as a political institution, those of the late William Stuntz and political scientist Albert Dzur.

Keywords: Jury, Trial, Political, Legal, Arendt

JEL Classification: K1, K4, K10, K14, K40

Suggested Citation

Burns, Robert P., The Jury as a Political Institution: An Internal Perspective (February 15, 2013). William & Mary Law Review, Forthcoming, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 13-02, Available at SSRN:

Robert P. Burns (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-6613 (Phone)
312-503-8977 (Fax)

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