A blueprint for democratic law-making: Give citizen juries the final say

Threlkeld, Simon
June 1998
Social Policy;Summer98, Vol. 28 Issue 4, p5
Academic Journal
The article discusses the role of juries or jury assemblies in giving the citizens a final say about laws. Juries are chosen by random selection because that is the best way to give a representative cross-section of the citizenry. Each citizen has the same chance and right to be chosen as any other. A jury is well suited for making an informed decision because the jurors can meet face to face and work full time for the days, weeks, or months needed to become fully informed about the matter at hand. Citizen groups can be allowed to bring proposed laws before a jury for a short preliminary hearing of the arguments for and against the law. After the preliminary hearing, the jury decides by majority vote whether to reject the proposed law or to refer it for full in-depth jury hearings. If a jury approves the law by majority vote after such full hearings, then the law goes into effect. Juries are suitable for deciding all types of laws at all levels of government, from municipal by-laws about smoking to national laws on the environment and taxes. Referenda are unsuitable for the informed decision-making needed for real democracy. In-depth jury hearings are an infinitely better basis for an informed decision than a referendum vote. An effective referendum campaign requires a lot of money to get the message out to the voters.


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