Jury trial  

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A jury trial (or trial by jury) is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.

Jury trials are used in a significant share of serious criminal cases in all Anglo-American (aka "common law") legal systems, and juries or lay judges have been incorporated into the legal systems of many civil law countries for criminal cases. Only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of non-criminal cases. Other Anglo-American legal jurisdictions use jury trials only in a very select class of cases that make up a tiny share of the overall civil docket, while true civil jury trials are almost entirely absent elsewhere in the world. Some civil law jurisdictions do, however, have arbitration panels with non-legally trained members decide cases in select subject-matter areas relevant to the arbitration panel members' areas of expertise.

Availability of a trial by jury in American jurisdiction usually depends on the availability of a jury trial in a particular type of case under the common law of England at the time of the American Revolutionary War (which allowed jury trials in its "courts of law" but not in its "courts of equity"), despite the fact that jury trials are no longer available in the vast majority of such cases under modern English law. In practice, this means that jury trials are available in American civil cases in most cases seeking money damages on a tort law or contract law theory, but are rarely available when non-monetary damages, such as an injunction or declaratory relief are sought.

The use of jury trials evolved within common law systems rather than civil law systems, and have a profound impact on the nature of American civil procedure and criminal procedure rules even in cases where a bench trial is actually contemplated in a particular case. In general, the availability of a jury trial if properly demanded has given rise to a system where fact finding is concentrated in a single trial rather than multiple hearings, and where appellate review of trial court decisions is greatly limited. Jury trials are of far less importance (or of no importance) in countries that do not have a common law system.

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