Chapter 3

JurisdictionUnited States
Chapter 3 Trial Courts

Trial courts are where trials happen. There, that takes care of that!

Well, not quite. We still need to know what trials actually are and how they happen to happen. Let's start with the first question.

A trial is a formal proceeding, governed by rules, in which two or more persons seek to present witnesses and documents that describe a set of facts. The facts are those necessary to understand a legal dispute. That's a long sort of definition but we will unwind it a bit as we go.

It may be useful to understand something that is not always obvious. The news and current events channels talk a lot about the law and disagreements about what the law is or should be. We have come to regard the law as constantly in dispute.

In fact, the law is almost always agreed upon. If you run through a red light in your car, you know that you have broken the law. When the policeman charges you with running a red light, he knows you broke the law. Your argument is not that the law is on your side. It is not. Your argue that a wasp suddenly attacked you, and you lost control of the vehicle. You are saying that some set of facts ought to excuse your violation of the law.

If you take a watch from another person's possession, you know that you are not allowed to take other peoples' property and that you cannot argue that you are. But your argument is that the watch was NOT his property. In fact, he had previously stolen it from you, and you were merely recovering your own property. To make that argument requires you to present a set of facts through documents, exhibits (things like photographs and the watch itself with your initials engraved on it), and witnesses that can provide proof of your ownership and the fact that he unlawfully took it from you.

But trials and cases exist long before the lawyers start presenting witnesses or introducing documents in a courtroom, in front of a jury. A case exists when a party believes they were injured and files a lawsuit in court to attempt to obtain a remedy for their injury. There are several steps in the process before we get to the point where the actual trial begins (if, in fact, the case actually goes to trial.)

Let's use an example: Mary Smith owns a restaurant specializing in breakfast. She contracts with Fresh Farms to supply her eggs at the rate of twelve dozen per day. One day a flash flood damages the road leaving Fresh Farms. The egg truck cannot use the road and the eggs are not delivered. Since most of Ms. Smith's customers want eggs for breakfast, she loses most of her customers that day. As a result, her sales for the day were only $185 when they are usually...

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