The said case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by George Jarkesy, a hedge fund manager accused by the SEC of overestimating the value of some of his assets and making false claims. But the district court dismissed the case. The regulating agency pursued him through its internal, juryless adjudication process in which an SEC-appointed administrative law judge (ALJ) assessed the sufficiency of the evidence against him. Jarkesy and his advisory firm were ordered to pay $300,000 in civil penalties and to cease and desist from their violations.
The case came on a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A divided panel held that the SEC's ALJs' two layers of removal protections unconstitutionally insulated them from presidential oversight. Questions presented in the petition are the below:
Critics are saying that SEC's juryless decision is a direct breach of the Seventh Amendment which provides: "In Suits at common law … the right of trial by jury shall be preserved" and "fraud" is a long-recognized common-law crime.
"In proceedings like Jarkesy’s, the government is seemingly exercising authority in a suit of common law, but by conducting the prosecution outside traditional courtrooms, it believes it can deprive the accused of the protections of a jury trial," read an article on the Daily Signal, where the writers pointed out that SCOTUS must affirm the 5th Circuit's ruling that the Seventh Amendment guarantees petitioners a jury trial. This is because the SEC's enforcement action is akin to traditional actions at law to which the jury-trial right attaches.
The founding fathers of the United States, back in the day, agreed with French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville that the jury trial system is an institution of civic education and an essential defense against the domestic growth of government tyranny. "The institution of the jury … places the real direction of society in the hands of the governed … and not in that of the government," Tocqueville said.
Another point that makes the jury trial important is that it can make citizens better understand the laws of the land. It also ensures that a fairer system for defendants is instilled. Juries perform the "check and balances" that can influence decisions held exclusively by a judge or powerful administrator. They still allow experts to inform the proceedings but install a popular check against those who would see expert pretensions converted directly into legal authority.
"Affirming that administrative enforcement actions require that the defendant be afforded the right to demand a jury trial would start an era of greater openness and accountability in one of the most insular arms of the administrative state," the independent news outlet wrote, highlighting how this would make administrators think twice about whether to "flex their muscles," knowing they, like any other prosecutor or plaintiff, may have to face the scrutiny of their fellow citizens in the process. (Related: The great left-wing disinformation operation against the Supreme Court.)
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