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Trial

At a trial, the party that started the lawsuit tries to prove his or her case to the judge or jury and the other side tries to prove his or her defenses and counterclaims. Both sides testify and show their evidence to the judge. There are rules that must be followed at the trial. You can visit a Court Help Center to learn more, but remember court staff can’t tell you what to say in your case.

At any time during the trial, both sides can agree to settle the case.

 

Basic Steps

The case starts with opening statements by each side that tell the judge or jury something about the case and what they will be hearing. Each side says what their evidence will prove. Whoever started the case goes first.

After the opening statements, the party that started the case tries to prove his or her case first by having witnesses testify and submitting evidence. Then it is the other side’s turn. The party that started the case gets one more chance to put on witnesses to respond. Everyone who testifies must swear to tell the truth. Both sides have a turn to ask each witness questions. Sometimes the judge asks questions.

After both sides rest their cases, the parties can make closing arguments to the judge or jury to point out the facts most favorable to the claims. If there is a jury, the judge tells the jury about the law that should be used to make its decision and what level of proof is needed. This is called the jury charge.

The jury’s decision it is called the verdict. If the jury’s verdict is for the plaintiff or petitioner, the jury may also say how much money the defendant or respondent must pay in damages, if this was a question for the jury to decide. After the jury is dismissed, it is possible for the judge to change or modify the verdict. If there is no jury, the judge makes a decision, but he or she may not make a decision right away. The decision can’t be enforced until a judgment is entered. Read more about Judgments.

After the verdict and final judgment, the winning side can take steps to collect or enforce the judgment. The losing side can appeal if he or she thinks the judge made a mistake.

 

Objections

A party can object if he or she thinks there is a reason why the testimony or the document should not be allowed by the Judge. A party should not object just because he or she disagrees with it. A party can object if:

  • the witness is only repeating what someone else told him or her (this is called hearsay),
  • the testimony or document has nothing to do with the case (this is called irrelevant),
  • a document is not certified or an original or has been changed.

If a party has an objection he or she interrupts the trial and says, objection. The judge decides whether to grant or deny the objection. If the judge agrees with the objection, the judge says sustained. If the judge disagrees with the objection, the judge says overruled.

 

Conduct in Court

At the trial, be yourself. When you testify, just say what happened and give complete answers. Don’t argue with the judge or the other side. Speak to the judge, not the other side when saying your case. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you don’t understand the verdict, don’t leave without making sure you know what it means.

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