I’m heading into my second year of law school and I’ve been spending my summer working for a trial judge in Philadelphia and yet I still feel I don’t have a strong grasp of the practical in’s and out’s of the legal process. So, I guess I’ll describe how it works as far as I know, and if anyone could fill in the holes I’d be very appreciative… as would my future clients I’m sure. Thanks guys.
Your Basic Civil Trial:
Plaintiff files a complaint. Defendant answers. Both parties file briefs explaining their argument and the substantive law they believe supports it, and pre-trial motions with the court. (What kind of motions are most common? Motions to exclude evidence, motions to remove to another court, motions to dismiss?)
Motions are ruled upon. Interrogatories, depositions, and other discovery take place. The parties select a jury. The trial proceeds. General law instructions are given to the jury. Direct examination, cross-examination, redirect, recross. The judge can sustain objections to questions outside of the scope of the complaint and answer or prejudicial (what does that mean exactly, and what else is not permitted? What are the most common objections?)
Lawyers and the judge go to sidebar to discuss whether an issue can be raised in open court, whether evidence can be admitted, and general practice limitations. Once all testimony is heard the judge and lawyers decide upon jury instructions and a verdict sheet, which are delivered to the jury. (Is that right? What does this process entail?)
The jury deliberates and delivers a verdict. Post trial motions are filed. (Motion for judgment not withstanding the verdict, motion for post-trial relief? What really are these things? What else is motioned for after the trial?)
Motions are ruled upon. The losing party often files notice of appeal with an appellate court. (What issues does the appellate court review and who decides?)