‘Land Valuations, Market Practices, Pregnancy, Insanity: There's a Jury for That’
11 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2017 Last revised: 13 Dec 2017
Date Written: November 27, 2017
Contemporary legal practitioners and academics are familiar with the use of juries in criminal trials. To a lesser extent, the use of juries in civil actions, although a rarity in 21st century Ireland, is recognised as having been the norm in the past, and continues to be an essential part of the administration of justice in other common law systems, notably the United States. Juries also continue to be used at coroners’ inquests, delivering verdicts on the causes of death. What might be less widely appreciated, however, was that in the past, juries were used in a much wider range of situations, ranging from the determination of pregnancy or insanity, to the regulation of market practices and the conducting of land valuations. The term ‘jury’ in these scenarios is to be given a wide interpretation, generally meaning a panel of laypersons with no judicial or other specialised training. In this paper, I propose to explore some of these ways in which panels of laypersons were used in 18th and 19th century Ireland as an essential aspect of law, order and the regulation of society. Why were juries used in such diverse contexts? What were the advantages or disadvantages of doing so? Were there alternatives?
Keywords: Juries, 18th 19th Century, Ireland, Regulation of Society, Administration of Justice
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