The Constitutional And Statutory History Of The Right

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To understand the present scope of the right to a trial by jury in civil actions, it is necessary to examine the constitutional and statutory history of the right. The United States Constitution has preserved the right to a jury trial in “[s]uits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars.” The New York Constitution provides for trial by jury in civil actions “in all cases in which it has heretofore been guaranteed.” In addition to the constitutional right, this right has been further codified in CPLR Section 4101. The cases in which jury trials are required are generally those actions that evolved through the common law courts versus those developed in the equity courts, which are tried by the court alone.
Courts of equity were the Chancery courts and existed historically as an entirely separate department from the Supreme Court, imitating the historical arrangement in place in England. A primary reason for the development of the Chancery courts was to provide a means of redress where the common law provided an inadequate remedy or no remedy at all. In equity, generally the court’s power is to direct someone to act or to forbear from acting, which circumstances clearly cannot be redressed by the award of money damages.
In New York, with the passage of the 1846 Constitution, law and equity were merged so that jurisdiction could be had by the same tribunal regardless of the nature of the suit. Legal and equitable jurisdictions
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