This article was written by Brian Vukadinovich, an experienced pro se litigant and the author of Motion for Justice: I Rest My Case.
There is a serious problem occurring in the United States with courts violating the Constitution by dismissing valid lawsuits on a widespread basis.
When a court dismisses a lawsuit, the plaintiffs are deprived of justice. It is happening at alarming rates. The conduct of the courts in summarily dismissing lawsuits against corporations and government agencies is very troubling because the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved,…”
The Seventh Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights. What this means is that every time a court dismisses a lawsuit, that court has effectively trampled on the plaintiff’s fundamental right to address his or her grievances. In effect, that court has thumbed its nose at the Bill of Rights, thereby violating the Constitution.
In March 2016, mine was one of the rare cases to go to jury trial in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, but it wasn’t easy to get my case to trial. The federal judge in my case, Chief Judge Philip Simon, went out of his way to try to force a lowball settlement offer from the defendants down my throat just prior to trial. We had words over it, and he didn’t like it when I insisted on my right to trial.
I told the federal judge that my case wasn’t about the money. It was about the issue, and I was going to expose the liars for the liars that they were. After I stood up to the federal judge, he gave me a dirty look and it was clear that I had embarked upon uncharted territory in insisting on my right to a jury trial. The settlement offer was for $150,000, and the federal judge pushed it as though he was acting as the defendants’ advocate, so there would be no jury trial.
I represented myself at the 5-day federal jury trial and won the case. The jury determined that my former public school corporation employer violated my due process rights, and they awarded me $203,840.39, well more than what the judge pressured me to accept. During the trial, I noticed that there was no activity going on in the other courtrooms in the federal building. This seemed very strange. One would think, with all the lawsuits that are being filed, that the courtrooms would be busy with hearings and trials. But for the entire week, I saw no activity in any of the other courtrooms. This is a cause for alarm as it is a clear indicator of the problem with courts routinely dismissing lawsuits, rather than preserving the right to a jury trial.
I talked a little about the problems with the courts in a recent interview with Jason Goodman (where we discussed my new book, Motion for Justice — I Rest My Case):
An early article about my case noted that in the federal courts in Northern Indiana, only 1 percent of all of civil cases filed between October 2014 and September 2015 ended with a trial. One percent! A big reason is that judges are routinely dismissing claims and granting summary judgment in favor of defendant corporations and government agencies. In other words, violating the Constitution is the norm.
I asked the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to provide me with information on the number of civil cases filed each year and the number that end in summary judgment. I was told that they “do not collect data for summary judgment”. How convenient! Why wouldn’t our courts be tracking such information? The reason is rather obvious — federal courts do not want citizens to know that they are routinely trampling on our rights to put claims before a jury, as the people are entitled to do under the Seventh Amendment.
This is an issue that needs to be investigated and corrected. The courts’ conduct of routinely granting motions to dismiss or for summary judgment in favor of corporations and government agencies is tantamount to violating the Seventh Amendment. Judges who ignore the peoples’ rights to a jury trial under the Constitution should be removed from the judiciary.