In a nutshell: Judges are sworn to defend the Constitution, and the right to a jury trial is one of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It is the most fundamental constitutional restraint upon the judicial branch and ensures the balance of power between the three branches of government, the people of this country, and the freedom essential to our Republic.
When we search for explanations for how something went wrong and what we can do about it, we instinctively know that not all wrongs can be made right. We know that not all harm can be healed. We know that not all conflicts can be resolved. What is required of us is that we find the truth, and in that truth, act according to the principles that guide us. These principles arise from our obligations to one another. Our obligations arise from our relationships with one another. Always, the focus of justice is the people. In justice, we find the freedom to believe in one another and to reach our full potential.
The power of the people is the strength of our country, and a balance of power restrains abuse. Just as the right to vote ensures that the people of this country hold the power in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, the jury trial also ensures that the judicial branch is also accountable to its citizens. As Alexander Hamilton, one of our founding fathers explained, "the friends and adversaries of the plan of the [constitutional] convention, if they agree on nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon the trial by jury; or if there is any difference between them it consists in this: the former regard it as a valuable safeguard to liberty; the latter represent it as the very palladium of free government." The Federalist Papers, No. 83, p. 499 (Alexander Hamilton)(Clinton Rossiter ed., 1961). Therefore, protecting the jury trial and the decisions that come from that process is the single most important function a judge must perform. To do so ensures that our system of justice is not abused.
Abuse comes in many forms. Laws and regulations can become oppressive, and it is the role of the judiciary to strike down rules and laws that violate the constitutional restraints placed upon the legislature. However, only when the legislature violates those restraints should judges act to reverse the decisions of the legislators, who are acting as the collective voice of the people. We must "bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression." (Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address,"
March 4, 1801; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364.) Justice is guided by truth, reason, and fairness. These principles of justice must also guide judges in the decisions they make.