Pop quiz: what's the Seventh Amendment? Well, it's the amendment that guarantees your right to a trial by jury in civil cases involving $20.00 or more. And did you know that the denial of a trial by jury by the English monarch was one of the primary grievances triggering the American Revolution?
Debate today over the extent of this guaranteed right doesn't usually involve the phrase "Seventh Amendment," rather, it's framed in the phrase "tort reform" or "civil justice" depending on the speaker's view. Reforming our tort system is usually pushed by conservatives and Republicans concerned by seemingly unethical lawyers who pursue frivolous lawsuits. However, the Seventh Amendment continues to protect us from what Senator Richard Henry Lee (a fairly obscure but vitally important Founding Father) feared: corrupt or aristocratic judges handing down capricious and arbitrary "justice."
In 1620, philosopher Sir Francis Bacon called English judges "lions on the throne," subject to the whims of the King. In the American Colonies, King George III abolished colonists' right to a trial by jury through a series of edicts and the Stamp Act of 1765. American colonial judges served at the pleasure of the King. The Founders in their deliberations knew that a jury would be a counterveiling force to tyranny and incorporated the right to trial by jury into the Bill of Rights.
While the concern over frivolous lawsuits is not unmerited and the conservatives' position is not to be scorned (yes, there exists lawsuit abuse by some), the rationale for why civil justice is important in its current form is outlined by the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (whose PAC gives to both political parties). Perhaps the most ardent anti-lawyer tort reform supporter could eventually agree that the Seventh Amendment is a check on potential government abuse of power.