A jury trial (or trial by jury) is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.
Jury trials are used in a significant share of serious criminal cases in almost all common law legal systems, and juries or lay judges have been incorporated into the legal systems of many civil law countries for criminal cases. Only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of non-criminal cases. Other common law legal jurisdictions use jury trials only in a very select class of cases that make up a tiny share of the overall civil docket (e.g. defamation suits in England and Wales), while true civil jury trials are almost entirely absent elsewhere in the world. Some civil law jurisdictions do, however, have arbitration panels with non-legally trained members decide cases in select subject-matter areas relevant to the arbitration panel members' areas of expertise.
The availability of a trial by jury in American jurisdictions varies. Because the United States system separated from that of the England at the time of the American Revolution, the types of proceedings for which juries are used depends on whether such cases were tried by jury under English Common Law at that time, rather than the methods used in English or UK courts in the present. For example, at the time English "courts of law" tried cases of torts or private law for monetary damages but "courts of equity" tried civil cases seeking an injunction or another form of non-monetary relief. As a result, this practice continues in American civil laws, even though in modern English law only criminal proceedings and some inquests are likely to be heard by a jury.
The use of jury trials evolved within common law systems rather than civil law systems, has had a profound impact on the nature of American civil procedure and criminal procedure rules, even in cases where a bench trial is actually contemplated in a particular case. In general, the availability of a jury trial if properly demanded has given rise to a system where fact finding is concentrated in a single trial rather than multiple hearings, and where appellate review of trial court decisions is greatly limited. Jury trials are of far less importance (or of no importance) in countries that do not have a common law system.
Read more about Jury Trial: The Role of Jury Trials, Pros and Cons
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