|Federal prosecutors are furious at a Montana-based group that posted signs at the Judiciary Square Metro stop reminding District of Columbia residents of their rights under the law. The offending message, sponsored by the Fully Informed Jury Association, says simply, “Good jurors nullify bad laws.” Nothing angers lawyers and judges like the empowerment of those who aren’t a member of their club.|
Jury nullification is rarely discussed by lawyers at the bar, either the courtroom bar or the bar on the corner, but jury nullification has been with us since the time of the Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers that trial by jury is the “very palladium of free government,” serving as a check against “arbitrary methods of prosecuting pretended offenses” that are the “engines of judicial despotism.” There’s no better example than juries nullifying the effects of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required that slaves captured in free states be captured and returned in chains to their owners. Juries often preserved the freedom of these slaves by refusing to convict runaway slaves.
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