This page tells you about:
- If you have a jury trial
- What are in Limine Motions?
- What does Preponderance of Evidence mean?
- How to act in Court
- If you have a jury trial
What happens in court depends on if you have a Court Trial (sometimes called a Bench Trial) or a Jury Trials. (A Court Trial is with a judge, but not a jury.)
See, "Setting the Trial Date: Jury v. Court Trial."
- Choosing the jury:
In a jury trial, the Judge and the parties choose the jury. This is called "Voir dire."
A group of people are called for jury service and sent to different courtrooms. The lawyer (or the party if they don’t have a lawyer) on each side can ask each person questions. The questions are to see if they can be fair and open-minded jurors.
It can be hard to tell if a person already has an opinion or prejudice. Spend a little time with every juror. Before you go to Court, write down some questions that will help you choose jurors for your case.
If one person thinks a person can’t be fair, they can challenge that juror. The other side can ask them more questions, or try to help that person as a juror. This can go back and forth. Be ready to ask questions and to understand this process takes time.
The person who asks for a jury trial must pay the jury fees. You must pay for every person in the jury every day. If the people on the jury come from far away, you have to pay their travel expenses.
EVERY DAY before court begins, you have to deposit the fees and travel expenses for the trial.
See the Advance Jury Fees FAQ posted July 2012 regarding deposit of advance jury fees for court reporter services under one hour.
In general, you make an In Limine Motion at the very beginning of the trial. This is when you ask to keep information or questions out of the trial. There are a lot of reasons to do this.
For example, the information might not be related to the case, or it might give the jurors or the Judge the wrong idea more than it would inform them. The Judge decides these motions. Then the next part of the trial starts.
You can win if your case is more believable than the other side’s. Lawyers call this a "preponderance" of the evidence. This just means that your side of the story is more likely than not.
It doesn’t mean that one side brought in more evidence than the other side. It means that one side’s evidence was more believable than the other.
The rules for evidence are not the same for civil cases and criminal cases. In criminal court, you have to prove that a defendant is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt". This means that the jury or Judge has to be sure that the defendant is guilty.
In a civil case, you only have to show a "preponderance of the evidence". You don’t have to convince the Judge or jury absolutely. They just have to believe that one side’s story is more believable than the other.
Judges and juries expect everyone in a lawsuit to act professionally and be polite. When you handle your own case, people expect you to act the same way as the Judge and the lawyers.
A real courtroom is NOT like a TV courtroom. You can’t yell or be dramatic. If you do, you can get in trouble with the Judge. The jury might think that you have something to hide.
Try to be as comfortable as possible. But, don’t be too formal or too casual. Be prepared, and present your case according to the rules.
At the end of the trial, you’ll find out who won the case.
If you have a jury trial, the jury will go to the jury room and talk about the case. This is called "deliberating." When they make a decision, the jury will go back to the courtroom. The clerk will read the decision. The jury can make a decision quickly. Or, they can take days if the case is complicated.
If the judge decides your case, (called a Court or Bench Trial) the Judge may need time to make a decision and will announce the decision later. The decision will be entered in the court records as a judgment and it will be official.
See "After the Trial" for more about judgment and options.