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Have you ever had to ask a parent to settle a fight between you and your brother or sister? If so, you have an idea of the way that the Superior Court works.

The courts want to be fair to everyone. They want to make sure that both people get to tell their side of the story. They do this by holding a trial.

A trial helps people who disagree resolve their disagreement without fighting.

A trial helps the court find out if someone broke the law or caused harm to someone. Trials are a much better way to deal with a disagreement than fighting. For this reason, trials play an important role in a peaceful society. Trials only work if everyone involved in them agrees that they are fair and just. Otherwise they might not agree to live with the outcome of the trial.

Many people are needed in a trial.

Every trial needs a plaintiff, which is the person or business that brought a complaint to court.

In a court case, the word “complaint” means an announcement that a person or a group of people did something to harm the plaintiff.

In criminal cases, the plaintiff is called the State of New Jersey. It is the government’s job to make sure people who break the law are caught and punished. Since the government represents all the people of the state, the government’s side of a court case is called the State.

A defendant is the person or business about whom the plaintiff filed a complaint. In a criminal case, the defendant is the person accused of a crime.

At a trial, both the plaintiff and the defendant tell what happened. They usually have lawyers to tell their side of the case for them. There are many laws and rules that must be followed during a trial. Lawyers are specially trained to do and say the right things at the right times during a trial. The plaintiff and the defendant will pay them for this important work. In a criminal case, the lawyer who represents the State of New Jersey is called a prosecutor.

If a criminal defendant has no money to pay a lawyer, he or she may have a public defender. A public defender is a lawyer who represents the defendant. It would not be fair to send a defendant to jail if the defendant is too poor to pay a lawyer for help. The courts want to be fair, so they make sure that even poor defendants have help to tell their side of a case.

A witness is a person who is asked to provide facts during a trial. People who have been hurt by a defendant might be witnesses. A witness could be

  1. A person who watched a crime take place;
  2. A person who worked for a business that is part of the trial;
  3. A friend or relative of someone in a trial;
  4. A police officer.

Doctors, scientists and other people may be expert witnesses. Because of their jobs, they have special knowledge that will help the attorneys explain their side of the case.

A jury is a group of people who listen to all of the facts. After both sides get a turn to speak, the jury will deliberate. They will discuss the case in private. They will think and talk about all of the facts and then make a decision. Their decision is called the verdict.

The judge is in charge of the trial. The judge makes sure that all of the rules are followed. It is up to the judge to make sure that the trial is fair and that both sides get to speak. The judge also makes sure that the jury has the information it needs to make a fair decision. The judge must tell them what the law says.

The verdict is delivered by the jury.

In a criminal trial, the jury may convict a defendant. That means they believe the defendant is guilty. If the jury believes the defendant is not guilty, they will acquit the defendant. If the verdict is guilty, the judge must say what the punishment will be for the defendant.

In a civil trial, the jury may award damages to the plaintiff. That means how much money that the defendant must pay a plaintiff for the harm that was caused.

Some trials happen without juries. For example, there are no judges in civil court if the damages are worth less than $15,000.

There are no juries in family court either. The judge decides those cases. For a divorce case, the judge might decide how a couple will divide stuff they own together. A judge may also decide how much time their children should spend with each of them. In cases of child abuse or neglect, the judge might have to decide whether a parent should be allowed to keep his or her children in their home with them.


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