Civil trial procedure
In the United States, a civil action is a lawsuit; civil law is the branch of common law dealing with non-criminal actions. It should not be confused with legal system of civil law. The right to trial by jury in a civil case in federal court is addressed by the Seventh Amendment. Importantly, however, the Seventh Amendment does not guarantee a right to a civil jury trial in state courts (although most state constitutions guarantee such a right). The Seventh Amendment provides: "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." In Joseph Story's 1833 treatise Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, he wrote, "[I]t is a most important and valuable amendment; and places upon the high ground of constitutional right the inestimable privilege of a trial by jury in civil cases, a privilege scarcely inferior to that in criminal cases, which is conceded by all to be essential to political and civil liberty." The Seventh Amendment does not guarantee or create any right to a jury trial; rather, it preserves the right to jury trial in the federal courts that existed in 1791 at common law. In this context, common law means the legal environment the United States inherited from England. In England in 1791, civil actions were divided into actions at law and actions in equity. Actions at law had a right to a jury, actions in equity did not. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 2 says "[t]here is one form of action - the civil action," which abolishes the legal/equity distinction. Today, in actions that would have been "at law" in 1791, there is a right to a jury; in actions that would have been "in equity" in 1791, there is no right to a jury. However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c) allows a court to use one at its discretion. To determine whether the action would have been legal or equitable in 1791, one mus first look at the type of action and whether such an action was considered "legal" or "equitable" at that time. Next, the relief being sought must be examined. Monetary damages alone were purely a legal remedy, and thus entitled to a jury. Non-monetary remedies such as injunctions, rescission, and specific performance were all equitable remedies, and thus up to the judge's discretion, not a jury. In Beacon Theaters v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500 (1959), the US Supreme Court discussed the right to a jury, holding that when both equitable and legal claims are brought, the right to a jury trial still exists for the legal claim, which would be decided by a jury before the judge ruled on the equitable claim. There is not a United States constitutional right under the Seventh Amendment to a jury trial in state courts, but in practice, almost every state except Louisiana, which has a civil law legal tradition, permits jury trials in civil cases in state courts on substantially the same basis that they are allowed under the Seventh Amendment in federal court. The right to a jury trial in civil cases does not extend to the states, except when a state court is enforcing a federally created right, of which the right to trial by jury is a substantial part. The court determines the right to jury based on all claims by all parties involved. If the plaintiff brings onlyclaims which are equitable, but the defendant asserts counterclaims which are of law, then the court will grant a trial by jury. In accordance with Beacon Theaters, the jury will first determine the facts and the judge will then enter judgment on the equitable claims. Following the English tradition, US juries have usually been composed of 12 jurors, and the jury's verdict has usually been required to be unanimous. However, in many jurisdictions, the number of jurors is often reduced to a lesser number (such as five or six) by legislative enactment, or by agreement of both sides. Some jurisdictions also permit a verdict to be returned despite the dissent of one, two, or three jurors.