Publication Title

Wisconsin Law Review


right to jury trial in civil actions, Seventh Amendment

Document Type



This Article seeks to assess the treatment of civil jury verdicts by the federal courts of appeals during the two decades in which the Supreme Court has refused to scrutinize the actions of the circuit courts. Part I summarizes the manner in which the Supreme Court, prior to 1968, aggressively enforced the seventh amendment. Part II, focusing on a one-year period between the fall of 1984 and the fall of 1985, describes the actions of the courts of appeals in resolving the 208 reported cases in which a party challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury verdict. That analysis demonstrates that appellate reversals of jury factfinding, once a relatively rare event, are now occurring in almost half of all such federal civil appeals. Part III describes the standards currently being utilized by federal appellate courts in passing on requests for judgments nonobstante veredicto (judgment n.o.v.) and explains how those standards diverge from pre-1968 Supreme Court precedents. Part IV discusses the criteria now relied on by the appellate courts in overturning jury verdicts as excessive and analyzes the manner in which those criteria differ from the approach that prevailed prior to 1968.



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