Resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.I have high hopes for this topic. Jury nullification is a subject that most people know very little about. There's robust debate among legal experts and constitutional scholars as to its justification, and, consequently, a large and interesting literature on the matter.
Jury nullification, in brief, is when a jury acquits a defendant because, in the jury's view, she has been arrested, charged, and tried for breaking an unjust law--regardless of the evidence against her. It raises all sorts of interesting questions.
What democratic or social contractarian principles support or discourage nullification? What is the purpose of a jury--and why do we have jury trials? Do juries understand the law well enough to judge its validity? Is nullification an actual right of juries? If more juries nullified, what would the effect be? Should judges notify juries of their right to nullify?
And, more specific to the resolution: What particularly American needs, issues, and principles, Constitutional or otherwise, support or discourage nullification? Where does it sit in the larger framework of "checks and balances?" Historically, how has nullification worked out?
As you're researching, you'll see that jury nullification in the present-day United States often arises in the context of the War on Drugs. (See here, with additional commentary here, for example.)
Watch this space for further articles and analysis. As always, it's your questions and comments that make this space a truly valuable resource for LD debaters everywhere.
Also, if you're new to LD, I have some articles just for beginners. Click the link and start scrolling.
Added 2/1: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals makes the case against jury nullification. The skinny: it's a power, but not a right, and it ain't right.
Added 2/2: Radley Balko argues that, from time to time, it might be your moral obligation to nullify.
Added 2/11: An initial list of value and criterion pairs.
Added 2/15: An article that takes a "process view" of the jury's responsibility, with implications for the Affirmative.
Added 2/18: A look at the historical role of juries, slanted toward the Negative.
Added 2/21: When juries nullify, they show fidelity to "parameters of acceptable deviance."
Added 2/22: Why juries are an essential component in a democratic society. A brief look at the work of William L. Dwyer.
Added 2/28: A robust theory of public engagement seems like it could provide a solid framework for the Aff. The broader civic importance of juries cannot be understated.
Also, I take another look at William L. Dwyer's work, especially his humanistic view of justice.
Added 3/5: More reasons nullification is unjust.
Added 3/18: A reader sends ideas for resources, plus some thoughts on the Neg.