When many people think of a trial, they imagine a jury. This is probably very natural. In our popular culture, oftentimes trials are overseen by a box of twelve solemn jurors, observing and judging the evidence. While juries are a very real and effective means of adjudicating a trial, they are by no means the only method. Here in southeast Louisiana, New Orleans injury attorneys have another avenue as well: the judge trial.
There are many different theories and philosophies as to which method is superior, both from a plaintiff and defense standpoint. One such theory is that, in a complicated case, a jury may be less well equipped to hear and take in evidence and simultaneously render a verdict which is fair and equitable for all parties. This theory espouses the belief that a judge—presumably an intelligent person with many, many years of experience in the legal area—would be a better choice for complex litigation. There are a few problems with this theory. For one thing, judges are people, too! If a case is complicated for a jury, it is necessarily going to be complicated for the judge as well. Secondly, a judge trial exposes the client to the bias, prejudice, and predisposition of only one person instead of twelve.
This second problem is also an overarching problem with judge trials in cases aside from the very complex ones. There is something about American jurisprudence and American democracy which suggests to us that a trial where twelve people are the judge instead of one person is inherently more fair. This very well could be the case and more information on this is available here at http://wbeaumont.com/neworleansinjurylawyer.
Here in Louisiana, there are some cases where one simply cannot avoid having a jury trial. For example, if in a civil case the damages are in excess of 50,000, then the parties are entitled to a jury trial. Unless the parties stipulate to a judge trial, a jury will result (by this we mean that if the damages are more than 50,000 dollars, and one party wants a judge trial and the other wants a jury, the party wanting the jury trial will likely prevail.)
There are other circumstances surrounding the choice in a particular case of a judge or jury trial. One is the nature and character of the jurist. After “taking the bench” (the phrase we use to mean after a judge has been elected or appointed) normally their personality and opinions about different causes of actions and different interpretations of laws can be gleaned by a review of their record and their reputation in the legal community. Some judges develop a reputation for being more conservative, others more liberal from the perspective of injury attorneys. Some judges become known for higher monetary awards then others. Some judges are said to be quicker to grant summary judgment.
While like to think that the fate of a plaintiff’s case in civil court will always be determined by a fair and impartial jury of twelve of their peers, this is not always the case. Here in Louisiana, there remain instances where cases are tried before only a judge as well. For more information on the law in New Orleans, click here.
This article is not meant to be anything other than information on the law. For legal advice, please speak with an attorney. Will Beaumont. New Orleans.