Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beacon Theaters, Inc. v. Westover case brief

Beacon Theaters, Inc. v. Westover case brief summary
359 U.S. 500 (1959)

Petitioner theatre sought review of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's order refusing petitioner's writ of mandamus to require the district court judge to vacate certain orders alleged to deprive petitioner of a jury trial on issues that arose in a suit brought against petitioner by another theatre. The lower court held that the district judge acted within his proper discretion in denying petitioner's request for a jury.

A competitor had brought an action against petitioner theatre for duress and coercion for making threats of litigation and treble damage suits. Petitioner filed an answer, a counterclaim against the competitor, and a cross-claim against an exhibitor who had intervened. The district judge denied petitioner a jury trial on certain factual issues as provided for in Fed. R. Civ. P. 38(b), and petitioner sought mandamus to require the judge to vacate certain orders depriving petitioner of a jury trial. The lower court held that the denial of petitioner's request for a jury trial was proper.

In reversing the lower court's order, the Supreme Court noted that the maintenance of the jury as a fact-finding body was of such importance and occupied so firm a place in U.S. history and jurisprudence that any seeming curtailment of the right to a jury trial should be scrutinized with the utmost care.

In reversing the court of appeals, the Supreme Court noted that the right to grant mandamus to require jury trial where it had been improperly denied was well settled. In the Federal courts the right to a jury cannot be dispensed with, except by the assent of the parties entitled to it, nor can it be impaired by any blending with a claim, properly cognizable at law, of a demand for equitable relief in aid of a legal action.

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