Judge versus Jury Trials
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Many people often wonder whether judge or jury trials are better. This article will outline the basics of each option.
If you are going to be representing yourself in court, you would probably be better off to opt to have your case heard in front of a judge and not a jury. If you elect to have your case before a judge instead of a jury, you will not have to worry about:
- Making an opening statement in front of a jury
- Going through the process of jury selection
- Depositing jury fees with the court, or
- Submitting jury instructions to the court.
There are other advantages of selecting a judge trial over a jury trial when you are representing yourself. Because there is no jury present, you will probably not have to conform your arguments to the strict procedural rules that the judge would likely insist on if you had to argue in front of a jury. Likewise, because you will be arguing your case in front of a judge, you will not have to know the rules of evidence inside and out. A judge will be more likely to ignore evidence presented by the other side that would normally be objected to by an attorney. If this evidence was presented to a jury, even with a judges instructions to ignore it, it still may have an impact on the jurys opinion of your case.
However, there are other occasions when jury trials are better suited to your case than a judge trial would be. This is especially true when you think that you can present your case in a very sympathetic light. Juries are often more swayed by emotions like sympathy than by hard evidence that is presented by attorneys.
This is not to say that choosing between a judge and jury trial is so cut and dry. Not even the most seasoned lawyer can always tell you what type of trial would be better for your particular situation. They often shoot from the hip just as much as you would; choosing jury trials when a case seems to be emotional, and judge trials when a case could turn on a specific legal question.
However, even if you think that you would prefer a judge trial for your case, you still may end up having to argue in front of a jury. This can happen when your opponent in your case has a right to select trial by jury over a judge trial.
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