Civil Bench Trials
Civil Bench Trials
Trials (including possession hearings) are where the judge reaches a decision about the case. The plaintiff has the “burden of proof” meaning that they need to prove to the judge that they should win. Their burden is a “preponderance of the evidence” which just means more likely than not (or 51% likely).
Parties should come on the day of trial with three (3) copies of any documents or pictures they would like the judge to look at (one copy for themselves, one copy for the opposing party, one copy for the judge). Make sure that any witnesses arrive on time, in person, unless you have received specific permission from the judge for them to appear by phone or video.
Each party can give an opening statement, which is a summary of what the case is about. Because the plaintiff has the burden of proof, they present their case first. Each of the plaintiff’s witnesses will be sworn in and the plaintiff will ask them questions. The defendant will then have the chance to ask each witness questions. Any evidence (pictures, documents, recordings, etc.) should be shown to the court while the witnesses are testifying. After the plaintiff finishes with each of its witnesses, the defendant will get to present their case by questioning their witnesses and showing evidence. After the defendant finishes presenting their case, each party has the chance to give a closing argument. No more testimony is allowed, but this is a chance to sum up for the judge what was said.
The judge may rule immediately, or they may “take the matter under advisement” meaning that you will receive a written ruling in the future. If you believe the judge erred in reaching their decision, you have the right to appeal, but you must file the appeal within thirty (30) calendar days of receiving the court’s judgment.