The Trial Process
Few people have ever appeared in court and those who do usually not more than once or twice. Even fewer of these people ever appear at trial proceedings. Below is an exposition of the process which involves all parties, be they attorneys, advocates, subpoenaed witnesses or the parties themselves.
If you have approached an attorney to draft a summons for you on a civil matter or another has summonsed you for a civil matter, this is the beginning of the trial process. This is called the pleading process and upon the finalisation of the pleading process, the trial process will commence.
Attorneys who attend a trial process will either be arguing in the trial or assisting an advocate in the arguing of a trial. The attorney or advocate for the Plaintiff will usually firstly lead evidence in chief of their first witness and thereafter the opposing attorney or advocate will cross-examine the witness, thereafter the first attorney will have an opportunity to clarify any issue they wish to in re-examination. This process will happen for each witness.
Witnesses may take the form of either parties in the civil action or persons who have been subpoenaed.
If a witness has been subpoenaed to court to testify as a witness, their failure to do so may be tantamount to a fine or criminal charges of contempt of court.
Witnesses will then be led by either an attorney or an advocate with regards to giving their testimony, then being cross-examined and then re-examined.
Witnesses may not consult with their attorneys or other witnesses while still on the stand.
It is worth mentioning that spouses who may be called as witnesses in one another’s matters cannot not be forced to give evidence which may be prejudicial to their spouse due to the law of spousal privilege.
Presiding Officers of the Court
The last main party to the trial process is the Magistrate or Judge who will preside over the matter and who will be the one to make a final decision on the matter at hand.
The Presiding officer may ask questions whether related to fact or to clarification of an issue. The presiding officer will also make decisions during the trial process regarding objections which may be raised during the leading of evidence at trial.
In civil trials there may be other parties also involved, such as a stenographer who records all the proceedings as well as members of the public who make up the gallery.
Trial may be an intimidating process and your attorney should guide you in preparation and on what to expect to set you at ease. It is also important to know what you may potentially be in for at the stage at which you instruct your attorney to issue summons for you as it may end up at the trial stage.