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Justifying the Jury: Reconciling Justice, Equality, and Democracy

Justifying the Jury: Reconciling Justice, Equality, and Democracy

by Melissa Schwartzberg, New York University

Scholars have long debated whether democracy should be justified as a means of achieving just ends, or on the grounds of equal respect. For a fresh look at this problem, Melissa Schwartzberg turns to the jury, an institution that must be justified “instrumentally,” i.e., by reference to its ability to produce just verdicts. First, why should we have confidence in the jury’s reliability? She argues that the jury’s reliability derives from the jurors’ equality in two respects: their status as local experts as well as near-universal eligibility and selection by lot. Although this dual egalitarianism gives rise to confidence in the jury’s ability to judge well, ordinary citizens thereby acquire an interest in respect for their equal competence to judge, reconciling the justifications. She tests the limits of these arguments by turning to the recent Supreme Court decision in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, highlighting the challenge that scrutiny into a jury’s racial bias poses to our fragile confidence in the justice of the jury system. Finally, she suggests that this framework reconciling instrumental and respect-based justifications sheds light on the justification of democratic institutions more generally.

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American Political Science Review , First View /Published online: 06 February 2018