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Judge or Jury? A Critical Question: Part 2

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2018 | Firm News

This week complete a two-part Blog article dealing with the considerations that counsel and client must consider when deciding whether to demand trial by jury or, by contrast, accede to a judge-only (“bench”) trial.  This is often a complex decision with no sure right or wrong answer.  Last week we discussed the advantages of a jury trial.  This week we review some of the key considerations for the other side of this complicated coin: the advantages of opting for a judge-only trial.

Advantages of a Judge Trial

1. Judges are Highly Intelligent. Most Judges, as noted above, are highly educated and intelligent people. Judges are also often experienced in business matters. A Judge may be much more adept at understanding the nuances of some cases, such as complicated breach of contract cases and so forth. Judges have often tried cases similar to one’s own in the past and may therefore be very familiar with both legal and some factual issues in the case.

2. Simplicity and Cost. Jury trials require additional trial preparation by all sides. Selection of a jury and preparation of jury instructions can take many days. This of necessity usually adds to the costs of litigation.

3. Juries Require Additional Skill. Most lawyers will likely agree that trying a case before a jury requires greater skill and experience than a judge trial. Any trial lawyer will tell you that selecting a jury, and presenting a case to a jury, is an art form in and of itself.

4. The Judge May Be Someone Particularly Good (or Bad). Sometimes the actual judge that is going to ultimately hear the case will influence counsel’s decision whether to go with a judge-only trial versus a jury trial. There is an old saying that “a good lawyer knows the law, and a great lawyer knows the judge.” Sometimes counsel may evaluate that a particular judge, to whom the case happens to be assigned, is the type of judge that counsel would like to have sitting as trier of fact. It is not unusual for this to influence whether counsel ultimately opts for a jury versus a judge trial.

Business and civil litigation is an art, not a science. In this short Blog article series we have sought to discuss some of the more common considerations in deciding whether to ask for a jury trial. There are many others as well. Buffington Law Firm tends to favor jury trials when it is a close call. As noted above, the jury system has stood the test of time for good reason.  It usually works.

If you are faced with the prospect of a business, real estate, or inheritance litigation situation, we invite you to contact our office for a free legal consultation.  You will discuss your case with an actual experienced attorney, and attorney-client privilege applies to all matters discussed.