Your Day In Court

“I don’t care what they offered, I want my day in court”. How many times have you heard something like that? How many times have you wanted to say it? As any trial attorney will tell you, the vast majority of cases don’t go to trial. They end up settling (in civil cases) or pleading (in criminal cases). Trials take time and are expensive. Not to mention you must herd witnesses (often times similar to herding disgruntled cats) to testify. But perhaps the most daunting thing is putting on a case in front of a jury.

Imagine, getting up in front of 40-140 people (yes, first a jury needs to be picked from a pool of people) and select just 14 (a jury is 12 but someone has to be the alternate). Some attorney’s go their whole career without ever doing it. It could be because they are nervous about public speaking, it could be because they don’t want to deal with the hassle. An attorney needs to ask deep, probing, and sensitive questions to each juror (more about Voir Dire in an upcoming post).  And even after finally selecting what seem to be 14 rational people, they sometimes don’t come to the seemingly obvious verdict. I am obliged to say this “There is no slam dunk case”. That case would settle anyways, not go to trial. That’s because jurors are too risky.

Individual jurors are logical. Jurors put together are crazy. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, in the last 20 years there is some case you probably don’t agree with. OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, George Zimmerman, to name a few. Entire careers are made on conducting jury panel preparation on big cases. Companies specialize in jury consulting to find out what average joe/jane thinks. Maybe there is some edge or magic formula, but then again maybe its just a crap shoot and you are only playing odds.

So where does that leave you? We have all felt wronged at some point. And when that wrong leads to injury, well maybe its no coincidence that injury contains the word jury. We want to tell someone about it and have it fixed. That would be the role of the jury. Right? Well as i said before, the vast majority of cases don’t make it to trial. Just check out this New York Times article on the subject. While the article is a little old, the trend continues.

So what is the point? Make sure your attorney knows how and when to try a case but also how and when to settle a case. There are always reasons for doing something. Make sure it is the right reason. Being too “gung-ho” either way may ultimately not be in your best interest.

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