Juries, Eminent Domain, and Public Choice

Lynne Kiesling

Todd Zywicki has an interesting post over at Volokh about post-Kelo juries. His argument is good: public choice theory is consistent with the political failure to protect private property rights in the Kelo decision, all the way up to the Supreme Court. In the face of these political dynamics, juries change their decisions, increasing their awards to those harmed by eminent domain. His hook for this discussion is a recent jury award in San Diego for more than double what the city had originally offered the property owner.

Interesting question: so we like juries when they do things we like, but then in other instances (Vioxx, for example), we don’t like them because they are swayed and decide emotionally. Should we be concerned about this? Jury reform? Or is this just the balancing of tradeoffs that we hope is net positive through our use of such a judicial institution?

2 thoughts on “Juries, Eminent Domain, and Public Choice

  1. There is another thread on that excellent blog is that juries go nuts. This may be another example of that phenomenon.

  2. In recent years I have been thinking about the idea of special technical juries to decide on specific matters that involve highly technical information. For instance, suppose there were a special jury impaneled to decide on the adequacy and quality of DNA evidence. The “DNA court” wouldn’t be bothered with the basics of DNA, statistics, biology, etc., and wouldn’t be so susceptible to manipulation on the basic science. The special jury would determine matters of evidentiary fact that would be presented to the regular jury, who would have to consider the decisions of the technical jury as facts, in words composed by the technical court.

    Elitist, huh? 😉

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