Attorneys for Civic Education Writing Contest Winners: Ella Barton

Attorneys for Civic Education (“ACE”) is proud to announce that three Idaho Students and their schools were selected for prizes in ACE’s second Civics Contest. Student essays explored the federal and state constitutional right to a jury trial in a criminal case from the standpoint of both the accused and citizens serving as jurors. The three winning entries were: Ella Barton, North Junior High School; Jesse Evelyn, Evelyn Family Homeschool; and Aunna Reynolds, Idaho Home Learning Academy. ACE would like to extend its gratitude to all the students who submitted entries and the teachers who supported them in that effort.

The ACE Civics Contest is open to Idaho middle school students. The contest was financially sponsored by the Idaho State Bar Fourth District Bar Association, whose financial contribution allowed ACE to award prizes to the top three entries along with an honorarium to the schools to be used for civics-related purposes. The Idaho Supreme Court, Idaho Court of Appeals, and the University of Idaho College of Law also provided extensive support.

One of the members of the judging panel, Donald Burnett, noted: “The students, ranging in age from 11 to 14, showed a welcome appreciation for the importance of juries under the federal and state constitutions, as well as for the right and responsibility of citizens to participate directly in their government through jury service.”

ACE would like to thank the judging panel – Justice Gregory Moeller, Don Burnett, Melissa Davlin, and Frith Stevenson – and the Fourth District Bar Association for their support of the Civics Contest. We appreciate their dedication to advancing civic education in Idaho.

ACE welcomes new members. Visit our website for more information. One of the three winning entries is published below, as well as in print in the February 2023 issue of The Advocate.

Winning Entry: Barton

By Ella Barton, North Junior High School

The U.S. Constitution has two provisions that protect a person’s right to trial by jury in criminal cases. Under Article III, Section 2, the “Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury.” This provision, enacted in 1787, protects one’s right to jury trial in criminal cases, except impeachment. Because this provision is found in Article III, the Article that deals with the power of federal courts, this provision protects one’s right to a jury trial in federal courts.

The other provision is the 6th Amendment. Under the 6th Amendment, in “all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” This provision, enacted in 1791, also protects a person’s right to a jury trial in criminal cases. The provision also describes the nature of the jury, stating that it must be impartial and must come from the state and district in which the crime was committed.

The Idaho Constitution also protects a person’s right to a trial by jury. Under Article I, Section 7, the “right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate; . . . A trial by jury may be waived in all criminal cases, by the consent of all parties, expressed in open court, and . . . by the consent of the parties, signified in such manner as may be prescribed by law. . . . Provided, that in cases of misdemeanor . . . , the jury shall consist of not more than six.” This provision, enacted in 1890, protects a person’s right to a jury trial in state courts. It also describes how a jury trial may be waived, and the size of the jury and how many jurors are necessary to convict a defendant.

The right to a jury trial in criminal cases is beneficial for both the accused and the jury. Jury service places the right to imprison someone in the hands of the people, as opposed to the hands of the government. The government cannot fine a person or take away a person’s belongings without the authorization of the jury, thus protecting a person’s possessions. The right to trial by jury is important to the accused because it allows the accused to have their fate be decided not by the government, but by a group of fair people, who are subject to the same laws as the accused and make decisions that are not orchestrated by the government.

The right to a jury trial is essential to liberty. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his letter to A. Coray in 1823, trial by jury is “the best of all safeguards for the person, the property, and the fame of every individual.” Serving on a jury positively impacts jurors. Jury duty grants jurors a direct hand in the government and allows jurors to see the wheels of justice turning. Jury duty also educates jurors about the justice system and ties them to the Constitution.

Ella Barton enjoys reading Jane Austen novels, writing, studying history and STEM subjects, playing tennis, singing, and practicing the harp.