In Exline v. Smith (1855) 5 Cal. 112 (Exline) and subsequent cases, we interpreted substantially similar constitutional language and held that the rules under which the parties to a lawsuit may waive a jury trial must be prescribed by the Legislature, which is without power to delegate to the courts the responsibility of determining the circumstances under which such a waiver may be permitted.Summary of this case from Grafton Partners v. Superior Court
Appeal from the County Court of El Dorado County.
Assumpsit for work and labor done at defendants' request. At the trial, defendants requested a jury, which the Court refused, and proceeded to try the case, and upon the proofs, gave judgment for plaintiff. Defendants appealed.
The ruling of the Court below was incorrect. Const. U.S. Const. Cal. Art. I. sec. 3.
C. B. Patterson & A. C. Campbell, for Appellants.
Reed & Ankeny, for Respondent.
No brief on file.
JUDGES: Murray, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Bryan, J., concurred.
The third section of the first Article of the Constitution provides that " the right of trial by jury shall be secured to all, and remain inviolate forever; but a jury trial may be waived by the parties in all civil cases in the manner to be prescribed by law."
The fifth chapter of the Act concerning Civil Cases, (page 55, Revised Statutes,) after providing for numerous cases in which a jury shall be deemed waived, adds: " The Court may prescribe by rule what shall be deemed a waiver in other cases."
The second subdivision of the third section thus quoted is directly in conflict with the third section of the Constitution of California. The Constitution has imposed the power as well as the necessity upon the Legislature, of determining in what cases a jury trial may be waived, which cannot be transferred or delegated to any other department of Government. The words " prescribed by law," look to actual legislation upon the subject, and in no just sense can be extended to a permission of the exercise of this power to others.
The right of trial by jury is too sacred in its character to be frittered away or committed to the uncontrolled caprice of every judge or magistrate in the State. Besides, the power to " prescribe by law" is legislative, and cannot be conferred on judicial officers, as was decided by us in Burgoyne v. Supervisors, ante, 9.
For these reasons it follows, that, inasmuch as the appellants were refused a jury trial, in consequence of a rule of Court and not on account of any statute, the Court below erred.
See People v. Provines , 34 Cal. 520, 526, 531.