Basics Of Trial Procedures

Basics of trial procedures: here is your chance to learn what all is involved to prepare for a court trial.

Preparing for a trial is intensive work which involves many hours spent shuffling papers and meeting court deadlines. If you are considering a court case, perhaps knowing what all is involved will help with your decision.

Prior to taking a lawsuit to trial, all necessary documents must be in order. Usually these items will be compiled in a trial notebook with copies and not originals of pleadings, interrogatories, deposition transcripts, pretrial motions, lists of exhibits to show, a witness list and relevant case law. A paralegal will often prepare the trial notebook under the supervision of an attorney. Nothing can be forgotten so team work is essential in this matter.

A pretrial conference is held where attorneys from both sides meet in a last attempt to resolve the case. If a settlement still cannot be reached then the approach to the trial and how it will be conducted will be discussed. At this time a motion in limine can also be submitted to the judge. This motion requests that certain evidence not be used at the trial for reasons of irrelevance, prejudices or because it is legally inadmissible.

Witnesses will also be contacted and prepared before a trial begins. These individuals need to know the exact date of their appearance and be thoroughly prepared. Since there is no certain way to assure by verbal agreement that a witness will appear in court as agreed, subpoenas are issued to direct the person to court on a specified day. This protects everyone involved and maintains the flow of the trial.

Jury selection will also need to be done prior to a trial. Local residents are notified by mail that they have been selected for jury duty, giving them a date to appear in court to participate in jury selection.

Both the defendant's attorney as well as the plaintiff's have some say on who is selected for the jury. Each attorney will question prospective jurors in a proceeding which is referred to as voir dire. It needs to be determined whether any witnesses will be biased and if so they cannot serve on the jury for that particular trial.

Attorneys on both sides also have the option to challenge the voir dire if they want a particular person to not be selected for the trial. People excluded immediately will be deemed as having alterior motives or conflicting interests and not considered unbiased. A challenge for cause is exercised when there is a specific reason for wanting to exclude the potential juror. A peremptory challenge can be exercised for no reason as long as it does not include race or gender.

Alternate jurors must also be selected in case any of the original members of the jury become ill or unable to attend for some unforeseen reason.

A trial preparation checklist can be used to keep track of everything which needs to be done and in what time frame it needs to be completed. These are often laid out according to how many days, weeks or months are left until the trial. It is a way of counting down the days and being sure everything is in order.

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