About the Talk
Why retain a jury system? Professional judges could render reliable and impartial judgments, and most citizens dread the prospect of jury service. In this lecture, Melissa Schwartzberg argues that the value of the jury is usually misunderstood: lay jurors provide crucial local knowledge. Historically, because the information gleaned from jurors may have value to elites, citizens have sometimes used their knowledge to improve their standing; in other circumstances, they have become vulnerable to coercion. Focus on the jury sheds light not merely on the nature of fair trials, but on the fragile role of ordinary citizens as bearers of knowledge in democratic communities.
About the Speaker
Melissa Schwartzberg is the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University, and is affiliated with its Department of Classics and School of Law. Her primary research interests are in the historical origins and normative logic of democratic institutions, with special focus on ancient Greek institutions and on the history of ideas about democracy, both ancient and modern. She was named the Julius Silver, Roslyn S. Silver, and Enid Silver Winslow Professor of Politics at New York University in 2018 and was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2020.
She has written books on the conflict between democratic theory and entrenched laws, and on the tradeoff between supermajoritarian and majoritarian rulesets.
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