If you have ever sued someone or served as a witness in a case, then you know how complicated the legal system is. The plaintiff brings a case against the defendant, but they are far from the only people involved. While every situation is different, most courtrooms include the following people.
Witnesses provide evidence that supports lawyers’ arguments on behalf of their clients. Sometimes they are people who saw the disputed event take place and can describe what happened from an objective perspective. In other cases, witnesses were not present at the event and do not know the defendant or plaintiff. These people are experts in a related field and provide the judge with information about some of the issues behind the event. For example, if a person is suing someone for failing to dock his or her boat correctly, leading to the plaintiff’s boat being damaged, the plaintiff’s lawyer hires an expert in maritime proceedings such as Mitchell Stoller. The perspective of someone with so many years of experience as a captain helps the judge or jury to decide whether the defendant committed the alleged offense.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant need lawyers. If the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, then the court provides one since everyone has the right to legal aid. These experts help organize their clients’ evidence, interview witnesses and create arguments to support their clients’ sides. They also question each other’s evidence in court.
Depending on the type of case, judges may make the final ruling or they may oversee the proceedings. Either way, judges make sure that each person’s case is presented fully and that no one attempts to obscure the truth. Judges’ authority must be respected by all people present in the court, and people who do not listen to judges’ warnings are usually removed from the court by a bailiff.
The presence of juries depends on the type of case, the severity of the alleged offense and possible punishment and the opinions of the involved parties. For example, in some cases, the plaintiff or defendant can request that a jury decide their case instead of a judge or they can together request a smaller jury. Juries are involved in both criminal and civil cases and are not full-time members of the legal system. Instead, they are chosen randomly from among adult registered drivers and voters. Once they arrive at the courthouse, they are asked a variety of questions to ensure their objectivity. As a group, juries listen to lawyers’ arguments and witnesses’ testimonies and then meet in private to decide whether to acquit or convict the defendant.
Most courts have a designated scribe to take notes and record every word that is said in case the plaintiff or defendant requests an appeal. If the case is high-profile, members of the media may also attend.
Understanding the different people present in court helps to clarify the complicated nature of legal proceedings, which are often different from how they are presented on television shows.