Being in a courtroom can be an intimidating experience for almost anyone, but what does the person in a black robe actually do?  For those who have watched any courtroom drama, we’ve become accustomed to seeing an older man or woman in a black robe pounding a gavel, but is that what a judge really does?

The Role Of A Judge In A Negligence Case

Both the judge and jury are important to almost any type of trial, but both need to work together in order for a trial to work smoothly. The judge’s job is to decide questions of law (the jury decides questions of facts).  First, the judge will decide if the evidence that has been presented shows a possibility of more than one conclusion.  If reasonable people could not differ as to what the facts of the case are, then the judge will instruct the jury to the findings of fact they must make.

For example, if Joe begins a medical malpractice case, and attempts to show that the defendant left a sponge in his body, if the judge decides that reasonable people could differ as to whether the sponge was really left in Joe’s body, or as to whether it was really the doctor who left the sponge there.  The judge will allow the jury to deicde this question of fact (assuming that Joe has demonstrated the other aspects of his case sufficiently so as to be entitled to go to the jury).  But if the judge concludes that all reasonable people would agree that the sponge was left in the body, the judge will instruct the jury that it must so find this fact.

The Role Of A Judge To Explain The Law

Many laws can be somewhat confusing, and it is up to the judge to give the jury a clear idea of what the law is.  For example, a judge will often determine that the defendant’s duty to the plaintiff was.  For example, in a suit by Tim, a trespasser, against Joy, a homeowner, the court will probably instruct the jury that, provided the defendant didn’t know of Tim’s presence, he owed him no duty of care at all.

By helping the jury understand what facts they are trying to determine, the entire judicial process moves more precisely and quickly.  Another example would be in a car accident case.  The judge will instruct the jury that the defendant owed the plaintiff the duty of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the circumstances.

What do you think?  Should a judge have more power, since they have more experience?  Should lawyers be able to talk more to a jury?

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