What Is the 7th Amendment?
You might know that if someone is arrested for a crime, like robbery, they may have a trial in court. A group of people called a jury hear the facts and decide whether that person is guilty or not guilty. Their decision can even decide if the robber goes to jail. But criminals aren't the only ones who have the right to a trial by jury.
Imagine getting a scooter for your birthday that can do all kinds of tricks. A friend asks if they can try it, but when they get on, they take off too fast and crash it into a tree. It's completely broken and doesn't work anymore, so you ask them to replace it, but they don't want to.
If you were an adult and this was a car crash, the 7th Amendment says you can take them to federal court and have a jury decide if they are guilty and how much they have to pay, even though they aren't a criminal.
The 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that civil cases, or lawsuits based on disagreements between people or businesses, have a right to be decided by a jury in federal court. The amount of the lawsuit must be more than $20, and after a jury settles the case, it shouldn't go back to trial again.
When the 7th Amendment was approved in December 1791, $20 dollars was a huge amount of money. Federal courts today won't hear a case if the lawsuit is less than $75,000.
7th Amendment Addition
After the Revolutionary War, when the Constitution was written, the Bill of Rights was added to protect the freedoms and rights of the people. The Bill of Rights is made up of the first ten amendments (changes or additions) to the Constitution.
James Madison, who became the 4th president, wrote the 7th Amendment. He did this because people were worried that judges would have too much power and wouldn't always be fair if they were the only ones making decisions in legal cases. Many felt like juries would protect the people from bad laws and be fairer when deciding a case.
Examples of Civil Cases
Some kinds of civil cases that the 7th Amendment says juries can decide include:
- Car accidents when someone is hurt or has property damage and files a lawsuit against the person they say is responsible, like the person who wrecked your scooter and doesn't want to replace it.
- When two people or businesses sign an agreement called a contract and then they don't do what they said they'd do, like you agreeing to feed your friend's fish every day while they are on vacation and then you don't do it.
- Going on to someone else's private land without permission, like cutting through your neighbor's yard without asking so you can get to the park faster.
Today, very few civil cases are actually heard by juries, even though the 7th Amendment guarantees that right.
The 7th Amendment to the Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights, which says that civil cases have the right to be decided by a group of people called a jury in a federal court if the lawsuit is more than $20 and that there shouldn't be another trial after the jury makes its decision. Remember that a jury is a group of people who hear the facts and decide whether that person is guilty or not guilty. And civil cases are lawsuits based on disagreements between people or businesses. Today, federal courts won't take a case if the lawsuit is less than $75,000 and juries in these courts hear cases like lawsuits from car accidents.
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Prompts About the 7th Amendment for Kids:
In your own words, provide the definitions of the terms that are in bold from the lesson (jury, 7th Amendment, civil cases). Each definition should be about one to two sentences in length.
Example: Civil cases are non-criminal lawsuits.
Pretend you are James Madison. Write a one- to three-minute speech that describes why the 7th Amendment is needed in the Bill of Rights. You can even dress up like James Madison when you give your speech (refer to the portrait in the lesson for his look!).
Example: The 7th Amendment makes sure that judges will not have too much power.
Make an informational poster that briefly explains the history of the 7th Amendment and explains what it does in today's society.
Example: Today, the 7th Amendment states that civil suits can be brought to federal courts if they are over $75,000.
In at least one to two paragraphs, write about a scenario that involves the 7th Amendment. Describe the details of the lawsuit and what happened, what amount of money is at stake, and who will hear the case. You can refer to the lesson for ideas, but be creative when writing your scenario.
Example: You were running a successful lemonade stand, but then your jealous neighbor started spreading rumors that the lemonade you were selling contained poison. This severely hurt your business, so you decided to bring a civil case against your neighbor.
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