The right to have disputed facts determined by a jury, rather than a judge, is protected by both the United States Constitution as well as the Virginia Constitution. Litigants retain the option, however, of submitting their dispute to a judge, in what we call a “bench trial.” The court will schedule a jury trial if either party requests one. But should you? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some cases are better suited to juries and others better suited to experienced judges. Below are some of the relevant considerations as you decide whether to seek a jury in your case.
Juries aren’t supposed to make decisions based on passion, prejudice, or gut feelings, but they often do. Perhaps the law is not entirely on your side but you have a very sympathetic case. Although judges are human, too, judges are more likely than juries to be able to dispassionately apply the law and not rely on raw emotion as a basis for making a decision. Juries may do what they feel is right regardless of what the jury instructions direct them to do based on the applicable law.