Giving Thanks

 Thanksgivinig Turkey 2015

I wish you all a wonderful, safe and joyful Thanksgiving filled with peace and gratitude.


I am grateful for so many things, not the least of which is my family and my faith. I am thankful that my mother, who will turn ninety next week, was with us for dinner and able to cook us the turkey you see above. No, that’s not clip art, that’s Mom’s home cooking. How fortunate are we to have twenty members of our family to our house for dinner, all healthy and happy.

The consciense of the community

As a trial lawyer, however, I want to remind all of you how grateful we should be for our legal system, in particular, our jury system. Many of us take trials by jury for granted. We underestimate the incredible power of the jury. Jurors, not the judges and lawyers, are the only ones in the courtroom that have the power to decide a case. Lawyers advocate for their clients, and the judge assures a level playing field, but it is the jury that decides for all times what the truth is in a case. It is an ominous responsibility, but collectively, these twelve men and women do an exceptional job for the benefit of our community.

Our jury system exists to protect the community. If you don’t believe that, look at the dictator countries in which there is no right to a jury trial. The government keeps courtrooms open to the public because everything that goes on in these courtrooms affects the public. Everyone in the community has the right to come in and watch because what happens in court determines the well-being and safety of the community. In short, jurors are the consciense of the community. They decide what is safe in our community. They decide what is acceptable behavior in our community. It is not a stretch to say that they decide the quality of life standard for our country.

Precious, sacred

While we sometimes lament the jury verdicts in nationally televised cases, the system is still the gold standard which protects the average system from a tyrannical government or monarchy. Former US Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist wrote “The founders of our nation considered the right of trial by jury in civil cases an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a ‘safeguard too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign’.” Our own state constitution called jury trials sacred stating: “In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons, except in cases in which it has heretofore been other ways used and practiced, the parties have a right to a trial by jury; and this method of procedure shall be held sacred….”-Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A Declaration of the Rights Article XV. Lastly, Thomas Jefferson considered the trial by jury as the only “anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principals of its constitution”.

The takeaway

As we sit around the Thanksgiving table this year, let us foremost be thankful for our families and our faith, but let us not forget how fortunate we are to be able to bring our disputes before our peers and not a tyrannical government or a monarchy to decide our fate. Who better than our peers to hold people responsible for their actions and keep our communities safe.

Thank you, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Michael K. Gillis, Esq.


1150 Walnut Street

Newton, MA 02461

Phone: 617-244-4300

Fax: 617-964-0862


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