Sunday, February 16, 2014

For A Civil Litigant, Sitting in on Hearings May Help You be More Realistic

If you are a party in a lawsuit or you are thinking about filing a lawsuit, the best way to get a realistic view of the judicial process is to sit in on hearings and small claims trials.  It will open your eyes to the process. The experience should also change your naive views of the system.  Television tends to push the childish view that the good guys always win.   

Additionally, hearings or bench trials are ideal because you get a number of cases and issues and those in the gallery hear objections, discussions, and rulings.  In a jury trial, the jury and the spectators miss important conversations. You will also learn a little about the rules of evidence, including hearsay and relevancy. Moreover, most hearing dockets include 10-25 cases.  As a result, you get a broader view of strategies, successes and mistakes.  Furthermore, you can watch a variety of nervous laypeople on the witness stand.   You can learn first hand about what works and what doesn't work as far as presenting your case and coming across as a credible person.  Fortunately, for those in Gwinnett County, Georgia, the Magistrate Court (Small Claims) schedules cases at 6:30pm.  The Court also plays a short video beforehand to give litigants a short primer on how the court differs from the small claims arbitration shows, such as Judge Judy.  If you live in that county or an adjacent county, it's a good time to stop in after work to observe and take notes. 

Finally, and most importantly, if you can watch the judge who has already been assigned to your case, you can see his or her demeanor and "fairness" to parties with cases similar to yours.