What is “Legalese”?Legalese is an English termfirst used in 1914 for legalwriting that is designed to bedifficult for common peopleto read and understand.
Opening Discussion •Do you know anyone who has been to court? •What are the courts like in your country? •Does the legal system play a big role in your life?
LawyerA Lawyer, also known as an attorney, is anexpert on the law who helps people with theirlegal problems. The role of lawyers in the legalsystem is very different depending on thecountry in which they practice law.A lawyer can help you if you want to suesomeone (take them to court), or they candefend you if someone else sues you. Lawyersare also very important in business because theycan legal contracts and agreements.
Judge A Judge is someone who is in charge of a courtroom. In many countries, a judge will try cases and give the verdict. In other places, Judges are in charge of court cases, but the verdict is decided by a jury. Sometimes a judge will also sentence criminals if they are convicted, even if a jury decided the verdict. In some countries there is only one judge in the courtroom, in others there might be several on the same trial.
JuryA Jury is a group of people who sometimes decide the verdict of court cases.Unlike Lawyers and Judges, Juries are composed of average people with nospecial legal knowledge or training. The reason for this is that some peoplebelieve that they should be judged by their peers –people just like themselves.
What do you think?• Have you ever hired or worked with a lawyer?• Do you know anyone who practices law?• If you were on trial for murder, would you rather be tried by a judge or a jury?• Do you trust lawyers? Do you think they are clever or dishonest?
Lawsuit “Lawsuit” is a noun for what happens when one person sues another person and takes them to court. The person who takes the other to court is the plaintiff, the person being sued is the defendant. People may go to court for many reasons. They might to try to get money back from someone who has cheated them or damaged their property. Another reason they might go to court is to solve a dispute or disagreement over business or employment issues. If the defendant loses the case, the Judge may award damages to the plaintiff –which means that the defendant will have to pay them money.
TrialA criminal trial happens when the policethink that someone has broken the law.After they are arrested the defendant is puton trial. The lawyer who works to get thedefendant punished is the prosecutor.When a jury decides the verdict of a case, itis called a jury trial. When the verdict isdecided by a judge, it is called a bench trial.If the judge or jury decides that theprosecution has enough evidence, they mayconvict the defendant. If the evidence is notstrong enough, the defendant may beacquitted. “Justice is blind.”
Hearing In some countries there is a hearing before the defendant is put on trial. During the hearing, the judge decides whether or not the prosecutor’s case is good enough to go through with a trial, otherwise the defendant is set free. Hearings are often much shorter than trials.
Bail In some countries, if the judge decides at the hearing that a trial should be held, they will set bail -an amount of money the defendant can pay to be released from jail until their trail. If the defendant shows up to their trail, they can get their money back, if they try to escape, they will lose the bail money.In the United States, the defendant can go to a bail bond agent, alsoknown as a bail bondsman, who will post bail for the defendant if they cannot afford to pay the bail themselves. If the defendant doesn’t show up tothe trial, the bail bondsman must catch them and take them tojail, otherwise they will lose the money they used to post bail.
CourtroomBoth criminal trials and lawsuits areheld in a courtroom at thecourthouse.Besides the judge, jury andlawyers, there will often be a bailiff –a police officer who brings criminalsinto court and protects everyonefrom danger.There is also often a court reporterwho records and writes downeverything that happens during thetrial. These records are oftenpublished and sent to law librariesso that judges and lawyers can studythem.
What do you think?• What is the most famous criminal trial that you can think of?• Should judges decide the verdict of cases based on cases that have happened in the past?• Do you think that justice is blind? Are important people treated differently in court than other people?