Process & Procedures of a Civil Trial
By the time the case comes up for trial all of the work has been completed. Our clients spend significant hours with us preparing for their jury appearance and helping us prepare for the presentation of evidence. Subpoenas for documents are issued. For example hospital records, accident reports. Subpoenas are issued for witnesses to come to court. Expert witnesses are hired and prepared for testimony. Photographs are blown up to poster size, and models are readied for use in the courtroom.
Again, under New York practice, and based on the peculiarities of each County, jury selection begins. This usually takes one or two days and the parties are not present, only the attorneys. Once a satisfactory jury has been chosen consisting of 6 jurors and 2 or 3 alternates. The lawyers are sent to a trial judge. Now, this may be immediately after selection of the jury or up to a week after selection, depending on the particular court house. From this time on our client must be available to us 24/7. The amount of work and pressure is enormous. We have the experience and talent to get through it but it is usually the first and hopefully only time a client has to be in the pressure cooker. As soon as the attorneys are able to see the trial judge there is a conference and the Judge sets down the rules of engagement that he wants. It is his courtroom and he is in charge. It is at this conference that the judge may engage in some settlement negotiations, but for the most part begins to ramp up the pressure on both attorneys to move the case forward. Actual court sessions are from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There is a lunch break at 1:00 for one hour and there may be some short recesses during the morning and afternoon session for bathroom breaks. Cases are tried 4 days a week. The judge reserves one day per week for work on other cases called a Motion Day. Unlike TV programs, the presentation of the evidence is not necessarily smooth. Expert witnesses may be taken out of turn to accommodate their schedules. Emergency application relating to other matters may require the court to take an unexpected recess. The Judge usually will try to take these recesses in a way so as not to interfere with the flow of testimony.
Once counsel, and both parties are before the Judge in the court room the jury is then brought into the court room. Life in the court room is formal. Everyone rises when the Judge enters and leaves the room, everyone rises when the jury enters and leaves the room. Administrative duties are performed by the Court Clerk. The Clerk holds all subpoenaed evidence once it is marked in evidence. Also in attendance is a uniformed court officer who provides security for the Judge and Jury and, of course the court reporter, who like the stenographer, at the EBT, records every word spoken in the court room.
Additional steps of filing a New York civil lawsuit.
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