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In impassioned prose, Burns (Northwestern Univ. Sch. of Law; A Theory of the Trial) argues that the decline of civil and criminal jury trials in the United States is disastrous. He lauds jury trials as public dramas that show the truth. After explaining how trials work, from opening statement to closing argument, the author traces the jury trial's current form to 19th-century practices in England, made more democratic in America, and also discusses its much earlier medieval origins. Then he describes the decline of the trial according to various researchers. To his credit, Burns offers suggestions for revitalizing the trial and cites numerous dramatic trials that showcased public problems, e.g., those involving labor organizer Joe Hill and radical Angela Davis. Without trials, he submits, elites would decide justice, and the judicial branch would decline. For a more trenchant, less scholarly riposte, see Philip K. Howard's Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law. Burns's well-written and well-researched book is for all interested readers.