No matter the reason, going to court can be an intimidating experience. But knowing more about how courts work can go a long way toward alleviating the stress involved. Within the sections below you can find information on court room proceedings, including tips on how to conduct yourself in court. The question of whether or not to represent yourself in court also is one that comes up often, and the self-representation section addresses the circumstances in which being your own attorney might make sense. Related to this topic, small claims courts are one of the most accessible and commonly-used forums for people to seek relief in court, and below you can find links to resources on small claims courts across the nation.
In the Courtroom: Who Does What?
In a courtroom setting there are several key players in which you should be aware. The parties to a case, whether civil or criminal, are those people directly involved in the lawsuit. The witnesses are people who give testimony about the facts or issues in the case that are in dispute. The lawyers are the gladiators, if you will, representing each of the parties and sparring in court to bring out the facts that put his or her client's case in the most favorable light. The judge presides over the court proceedings, while the jury decides the facts of each case and applies the law the judge instructs upon.
Do's and Don'ts - Being a Witness
There are many theories on how to be the best witness possible in a courtroom. Perhaps the most important advice is always be honest with your attorney, even if your information is embarrassing. Moreover, DON'T take any drugs or alcohol before you testify. This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised. Remember that "drugs" also includes things like cold medicine, or even more caffeine than you are used to. You should also be careful what you eat before you testify. That isn't the morning to skip breakfast if you usually have it.
What Is Jury Duty Like?
While jury duty is not always convenient and can cause a hardship, jury duty is still the duty and responsibility of every qualified citizen of this country to serve when called. You do not need any knowledge of the legal system to be a juror. The jury’s duty is first to decide the disputed issues of fact, and then to reach and return a true verdict that is based solely and exclusively on the evidence, testimony and law that is presented during the trial.
How Does a Judge Rule on Objections?
When an attorney wishes the judge to disallow evidence in court, he or she will say "objection." If a judge sustains the objection, it means that the judge agrees with the objection and disallows the question, testimony or evidence. If the judge overrules the objection, it means that the judge disagrees with the objection and allows the question, testimony or evidence. The judge may also permit the attorney to rephrase the question to correct whatever was objectionable.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you have concluded that your case is worth enough to justify you hiring an attorney, the first step is finding an attorney to represent you. Your attorney will be able to tell you exactly what is going on at any given time, explain how various court proceedings work, and will probably also be able to tell you about what he thinks may happen next.