The Illinois Supreme Court held on September 22, 2016 in Kakos v. Butler, 2016 IL 120377, that the right to trial by jury includes the right to demand a 12-member jury. The change to Illinois’ jury system to reduce the size of juries in civil cases was proposed by the plaintiffs’ bar and had passed the Illinois legislature without much real debate in the waning days of former Gov. Patrick J. Quinn’s time in office, and became effective June 1, 2015. The Court held PA 98-1132 which reduced civil juries to only six members, and the statute it amended, 735 ILCS 5/2-1105(b), was facially unconstitutional. Because the provision regarding jury size could not be severed from the Act, the Court held the entire Act invalid. The 5-0 decision was authored by Justice Garman, with Justices Thomas and Kilbride taking no part.
The full decision is here (PDF opens in a new window.) The plaintiffs’ bar had touted the bill as a way to raise juror compensation for the first time in decades, but the defense bar criticized it as merely making it easier to reach a plaintiff’s verdict through a consensus of six instead of a unanimous panel of twelve. Associate Judge William Edward Gomolinski had ruled that language in Section 1, Article 13 of the 1970 state constitution: “The right to trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate,” means that the right to a jury as it existed in 1970, with 12 jurors, cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment, and the Illinois Supreme Court has now agreed.