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Mixed Court and Jury Court: Could the Continental Alternative Fill the American Need?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

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For cases of serious crime a number of European countries employ a variant of the jury called the mixed court, in which laymen and professional judges sit together in a single panel that deliberates and decides on all issues of verdict and sentence. Trials in the mixed court proceed quite rapidly, in large measure because the mixed court dispenses with most of the time-consuming practices of jury control that characterize Anglo-American trial procedure. Consequently, the legal system can process all cases of serious crime to full trial. The present article describes the German mixed-court system and contrasts it with the American jury, asking to what extent the mixed court serves the purposes of the jury. The conclusion is that the mixed court serves the jury policies well, though not fully; and that it is a superior alternative to the indigenous nontrial devices—plea bargaining and bench trial—that have displaced the jury from routine American practice.

Research Article
Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 1981 

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1 For a concise English-language account of the history of the invention of the mixed court in Germany, see Gerhard Casper & Hans Zeisel, Lay Judges in the German Criminal Courts, 1 J. Legal Stud. 135, 136–41 (1972) [hereinafter cited as Casper & Zeisel]. Figures on the modern extent of the mixed court in Western European legal systems are tabulated in Gerhard Casper & Hans Zeisel, Der Laienrichter im Strafprozess 9 (Heidelberg: C. F. Müller Juristischer Verlag, 1979 [hereinafter cited as Casper & Zeisel, Laienrichter].CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 Stanley, Justin A., The Resolution of Minor Disputes and the Seventh Amendment, 60 Marquette L. Rev. 963, 971 (1977). (Stanley's context was the reform of American small claims courts, an exceptionally adventurous borrowing from the criminal procedural context of the mixed court.).Google Scholar

3 In addition to the works by Casper & Zeisel, supra note 1, see Jescheck, Hans-Heinrich, Das Laienrichtertum in der Strafrechtspflege der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Schweiz, 94 Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Strafrecht 229 (1977), and modern literature there cited. For older work see the two-volume set of studies, Schwurgerichte and Schöffengerichte (Wolfgang Mittermaier & M. Liepmann, eds.) (Leipzig, 1908). A forthcoming book is John P. Richert, The Role of Lay Judges in the West German Criminal Courts (1981?). I have discussed the work of the mixed courts in John H. Langbein, Comparative Criminal Procedure: Germany (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1977).Google Scholar

4 The theme of John P. Dawson, A History of Lay Judges (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).Google Scholar

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11 By the Statute on Court Organization (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz) of 1877, on whose history see Peter Landau, Die Reichsjustizgesetze von 1879 und die deutsche Rechtseinheit, in Vom Reichsjustizamt zum Bundesministerium der Justiz 161 (Cologne: Bundesanzeiger-Verlagsgesellschaft, 1977).Google Scholar

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15 The prosecution may insist on jury trial even if the accused wishes to waive it, but this seldom occurs. See Singer v. United States, 380 U.S. 24 (1965). In practice the only important election is the accused's.Google Scholar

16 I have collected some figures in John H. Langbein, Torture and Plea Bargaining, 46 U. Chi. L. Rev. 3, 9 & n.11 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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19 Strafprozessordnung (Code of Criminal Procedure) § 267(1).Google Scholar

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26 “Juries have the disadvantage … of being treated like children while the testimony is going on, but then being doused with a kettleful of law during the charge that would make a third-year law student blanch.” Curtis Bok, I Too, Nicodemus 261–62 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946).Google Scholar

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28 For detail on the study design, including the weighting of certain data, see Casper & Zeisel, supra note 1, at 143–46.Google Scholar

29 Harry Kalven, Jr., & Hans Zeisel, The American Jury (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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32 This and the next paragraph are derived from Langbein, supra note 3, at 137–38.Google Scholar

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34 Quoted in McCauliff, C. M. A., The Reach of the Constitution: American Peace-time Court in West Berlin, 55 Notre Dame Law. 682, 696 (1980).Google Scholar

35 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz § 43(2). The statute says “twelve regular session days per year,” and the practice is to spread them.Google Scholar

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40 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz §43(1).Google Scholar

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45 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz § 45.Google Scholar

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47 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz § 36(2).Google Scholar

48 391 U.S. 145 (1968).Google Scholar

49 406 U.S. 356 (1972).Google Scholar

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51 399 U.S. 78 (1970).Google Scholar

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61 Id. at 231–33, esp. Lempert, Richard O., Uncovering “Nondiscernible” Differences: Empirical Research and the Jury-Size Cases, 73 Mich. L. Rev. 643 (1975).Google Scholar

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63 Id. at 233–34 (footnotes omitted).Google Scholar

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79 See Langbein, John H., Understanding the Short History of Plea Bargaining, 13 Law & Soc'y Rev. 261, 269–70 (1979).Google Scholar

80 The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a statute authorizing bench trial under the state con stitution but recorded its disapproval. The opinion says that it is “impolitic and unwise … to place the life or liberty of any person accused of crime, even by his own consent, at the disposal of any one man or two men, so long as man is a fallible being.” State v. Worden, 46 Conn. 349, 367 (1878).Google Scholar

81 Unless, of course, the defendant waives all trial by pleading guilty. See R. M. Jackson, The Machinery of Justice in England 183 (7th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).Google Scholar

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83 See the evidence in Langbein, John H., The Criminal Trial Before the Lawyers, 45 U. Chi. L. Rev. 263, 278–79 (1978).Google Scholar

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86 United States, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, 1976 Annual Report of the Director, app. at p. 1–41 table C9 (Washington, D.C.: Administrative Office of the United States Courts, 1976).Google Scholar

87 The figure for Los Angeles appears in San Francisco Committee on Crime, A Report on the Criminal Courts of San Francisco, Part I: The Superior Court Backlog—Consequences and Rem edies 1 (1970). See Langbein, supra note 16, at 10 n.18, for further discussion of this and com parable figures.Google Scholar

88 The following account is based on Langbein, supra note 83.Google Scholar

89 New York Times, March 12, 1971, p. 43, summarized in Yale Kamisar, Wayne R. LaFave, & Jeroid H. Israel, Modern Criminal Procedure 1329 (4th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1974).Google Scholar

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91 This paragraph is derived from John H. Langbein, Torture and Plea Bargaining, The Public Interest, Winter 1980, at 49–50.Google Scholar