Colgrove v. Battin – Case Brief
Colgrove v. Battin, 413 U.S. 149 (1973).
Facts: The local rules in the district of Montana provide for a jury of six in civil cases. When Federal District Court Judge Battin (respondent) set this case before a six-member jury, Colgrove (petitioner) sought mandamus to compel Battin to impanel a 12-member jury. Colgrove contended that the local rule violated the Seventh Amendment and 28 U.S.C. 2072 (rules shall preserve the right of trial by jury as at common law and as declared by the Seventh Amendment) and inconsistent with Rule 48 which called for not less than twelve members for a jury. The Court of Appeals sustained the local rule and denied the writ and Colgrove appealed.
Issue: Does the Seventh Amendment guarantee the size of a jury?
Holding and Rule (Brennan): No. The Seventh Amendment does not guarantee the size of a jury.
The Court held that the framers of the Constitution intended the Seventh Amendment to preserve the right to trial by jury in civil cases at law, but not the various incidents of trial by jury, and that the Constitution does not bind the federal courts to the exact procedural details of jury trial according to the common law in 1791.
The Court held that the right to a 12 member jury was not a substantive aspect of the right of trial by jury. The Montana rule did not violate the right of a jury trial at common law and it did not conflict with Rule 48.
Dissent (Marshall): From a standpoint of history; there can be no doubt that the Framers envisioned a jury of 12 when they referred to trial by jury.
See Lavender v. Kurn.