Going to court can be an intimidating process, regardless of your position as either plaintiff or defendant. Because of the serious nature of legal matters and the expense that you will have put into your legal representation, you don’t want anything to interfere with a fair trial. Though the judge in the proceedings has the obligation to ensure fairness and ensure that the law is followed, you need to be aware of your own responsibilities throughout the process. Here are some ways you can prepare for your day in court, whether you find yourself in a district or circuit court.
Find Out the Trial Date
The trial date is often set within 60 days of when a case or complaint is filed in the system. This is usually the schedule for district court cases, such as those that Judge Mike Tawil presided over. Whenever a Notice of Intention to Defend has been filed, it usually starts the 60-day countdown. Within the circuit court, the parties receive their appearance order within 30 days of the defendant filing an answer. This order will set the timeline for trial preparation as well as lay out the ground rules for how the trial will be conducted. There are times in both scenarios where cases may need to be postponed.
Find Out the Facts
As your attorney prepares for trial, there will be a period of time known as the discovery process. This is right of each party to find out information about the other party. In a district court case, this discovery usually occurs through written questions (often limited to 15) sent to the plaintiff. These questions must be sent within 10 days of the Notice of Intention to Defend. If a party does not answer the questions correctly, the attorney may ask the court to step in to take action. If your case is being held in a circuit court, the discovery process is more involved and generally relies on depositions for answers to questions. Your attorney will inform you as to who is being deposed and the nature of the information being sought after.
Figure Out Court Appearances
For those that have a disability, whether you or a potential witness, you need to make sure the courthouse is aware of the needs and can accommodate them. There is a form that will need to be completed and submitted to the court. Upon hearing how the accommodations will work, you can either continue as planned or file a grievance to seek further assistance. The court is to provide interpreter services is an individual cannot speak English, but it must be requested.
Figure Out Your Transportation
One the day of the trial, you are responsible for your transportation to the courthouse. This is your moment to tell the facts from your side of the story. Everything will have led up to this moment, and you don’t want to jeopardize a verdict for being late or absent. Show respect to the court, the other party, and your attorney. Because court proceedings are often open to the public, you should present yourself professionally. Be extremely organized and have all the paperwork with you as you make your way to court. Plan to arrive at least an hour before your case is going to be heard, keeping in mind you may have to find parking, make your way through security, check-in with the court staff, and collect your thoughts or calm your nerves. Keep in mind that your presentation, whether verbal, body language, appearance, or paperwork, can all impact your verdict. Always be professional and respectful.
Having legal representation that you are confident with can make a big difference when you find yourself dealing with a court case. However, the responsibility for making a good impression and showing up to the trial depends entirely on you.
Image Credits: Brett Sayles