Home » Blog » What Happens in a Lawsuit?-Part 3- the Trial

The jury trial of an employment discrimination lawsuit in state court begins long before the day of trial with long hours of preparation of the evidence to be presented, witness preparation, and much legal research of questions that may arise in the trial.  Sometimes, the judge holds a pre-trial conference, at which the lawyers appear to present preliminary motions to exclude certain evidence that is anticipated to be offered based on rules or case law.  Also, the court considers what are called motions in limine.  These motions are requests by the lawyers to have the judge rule in advance of  trial that the opposition lawyers or witnesses must not bring up certain subjects in the trial, unless they must first approach the judge and get permission before mentioning it to the jury.  This ruling is designed to prevent a participant from mentioning something before the jury that might be unduly prejudicial, such as a  comment that “the plaintiff was convicted of violating the law”.  This information may or may not be admissible before the jury, so the lawyer would have to tell the judge and let him rule on it before blurting it out to the jury.  The first part of the trial involves selecting the jury and the lawyers get to question the panel of prospective jurors in a process called “voir dire”.  First, the plaintiff’s lawyer may question the panel of approximately 30 people about various issues that may arise in the trial, as to the panel’s experiences or prejudices regarding the issues.  For example, the lawyer would probably ask if anyone knows the plaintiff or defendant or has heard anything about the subject of the trial. There are many types of questions that will be asked to probe for information that would reveal a likely pre-judgment of the case by a prospective juror.  If the panelist admits that they cannot set aside a belief and only judge the case on the evidence presented, then the judge will usually strike them off the panel.  After both sides have questioned the panel, then the parties get to each exercise 6 peremptory strikes to rule out these people for any reason they chose, except a discriminatory reason (such as based on a juror’s race or gender).  Thereafter, the court will accept the first 12 jurors that remain after all the strikes.  So, the parties do not select the jury in the sense of picking out the 12, they get what is left over in the order that they are seated after the objectionable panelists are removed.  Thereafter, the trial begins with the plaintiff attorney’s opening statement followed by the defendant attorney’s statement.  The plaintiff has the burden of proof, so the plaintiff puts on his evidence first.  The defense attorney is allowed to cross examine each witness as presented.  When the plaintiff rests its case, the defendant usually requests the judge to dismiss the case by claiming the plaintiff has not met it’s burden of proof.  If this motion is denied, which it usually is, the defendant will put on its case.  After both sides have closed their cases, the judge and lawyers prepare which is called a charge to the jury.  This is generally composed of certain instructions by the judge of the law involved and then several questions that are asked about the issues of fact that need to be decided in order to determine whether the plaintiff or defendant will win the case.  After the jury deliberates and completes the answering of the questions, the judge will analyze the verdict and decides who wins.  If the plaintiff wins, then the judge will sign a judgment awarding the plaintiff the sum of money due as a result of the jury’s verdict and the application of the law to the verdict.  If the defendant wins, then the judge will enter a judgment that the plaintiff will receive nothing.  After the jury verdict and judgment, both sides may file additional motions regarding the trial to attempt to change the result of the trial by having the judge either grant a new trial or modify the judgment.  The next step concerns any appeal of the judgment, which will be discussed next (to be contined).