Personal Injury And The Role Of The Judge
The decision to go to trial for a lawsuit involving personal injury or even wrongful death should never be entered into lightly. A trial can be a long and grueling process, and sometimes it may take years to get a legal resolution. But regardless of whether you’re in a criminal trial, or your own civil trial for a lawsuit, there are two things that remain the same; the presence of the jury and the judge. But who is the judge, and why is he or she even there?
Not The Final Arbiter
The presence of the jury is obvious, once it has been explained. A jury is a group of people—in the case of a civil trial, six people—who have been selected to attend the trial. They are the decision makers for whom evidence must be presented, arguments made, witnesses and testimony given. And finally, after final, closing arguments are complete, it is the jury that must deliberate, and reach a decision about whether to award or deny damages in a lawsuit.
In other words, they actually decide the outcome of the trial. So if that’s what they do, then what is the judge doing?
Who Is The Judge?
The judge, first of all, is someone that was formerly a lawyer. A person must first go to school, study law, pass the bar exam and practice law as an attorney. After a certain number of years, and usually with the backing of politicians, a lawyer may then apply, or be recommended for the position of a judge then be either appointed, or run for election to the position. At the state level, a judge will normally have a fixed or renewable term of office.
Once a judge has either been appointed, or elected, the training begins, with studying, reviewing legal publications and participating in trials. After the training period is over, it’s time to don the black robes and preside over a court. And in the case of civil trials, that essentially means playing a “referee.”
Decisions & Guidance
In some instances, a court case does not require a jury, and so it is the judge that makes the final decision or verdict. Small claims court, and even family law disputes—such as awarding custody of a child to one parent or the other—are areas where a judge him or herself can make a ruling. However, for the more serious cases that require a trial, the American legal system decrees that a participant in a trial shall be judged by a jury of peers.
In these cases, the role of the judge is to oversee the proceedings, keep the lawyers in line and, most important of all, advise the jury on what they can or cannot use as evidence while they are deliberating to make a decision. This is the role that most people are probably familiar with from film and television, where a judge considers objections from lawyers about whether what was just said or asked should be admitted as part of the court process.
In some cases, a judge may be able to prevent a “hung jury,” which is a situation where the jury cannot arrive at a consensus. Judges may sometimes make it possible for extra questions and clarification to be provided that may then allow the jury to reconvene and actually make a decision. In many ways, judges are the supervisors, or overseers that ensure a trial goes smoothly.
Of course, none of this is something that a client needs to be directly worried about. If you’re careful with your choice, and you pick a personal injury lawyer that is experienced in the courtroom, you’ll have an able advocate that can deal professionally both with the judge and the jury.