Advocate News


07.05.2017

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Advocacy Tip: Bench Trials vs Jury Trials

Bench Trials vs Jury Trials

As your CPS case comes to an end a trial will be held to determine permanency for the children. The most common type of trial held in CPS cases are Bench Trials. However, all legal parties to the case have the right to a Jury Trial. As the CPS case progresses, the attorneys will be asked if their client is willing to waive the jury or if a jury demand will be filed. If all parties agree to waive the jury, then the case will proceed to a Bench Trial. However, if any party is not in agreement to waive the jury then a jury demand will be filed by that party’s attorney and the case will proceed to a Jury Trial. 

Bench Trials

During a Bench Trial the judge is both the finder of fact and ruler on matters of law and procedure. This means that the judge decides the credibility of the evidence presented at trial and also decides what happens at the trial according to laws and rules of procedure. A Bench Trial can be beneficial when people want a speedy resolution to a legal matter. Bench Trials usually take less time than Jury Trials because the attorneys do not need to go through the jury selection and instruction process, but can vary widely in the length of time they take. Bench Trials also tend to be slightly less formal than Jury Trials. A Bench Trial may also be beneficial in particularly complex cases that a jury might not understand. One of the potential drawbacks to a Bench Trial is that there is only one finder of fact, the judge, so there is not the opportunity that exists in Jury Trials for at least one person to agree with a given side.

Jury Trials

In a Jury Trial, a jury composed of members of the community is selected to act as the finder of fact. The jury listens to the evidence that each side presents during the trial and renders a verdict based on how persuasive each side's evidence is. The judge handles questions of law and procedure during a Jury Trial, such as addressing attorneys' objections to questions or evidence, or ruling on motions that the attorneys make. One of the potential benefits of a Jury Trial is that jurors do not need to answer to anyone for the decisions they make. However, one of the drawbacks to Jury Trials are that they are time-consuming, and jurors may not always follow the law, instead rendering verdicts based on emotions. Jury Trial can take a much more extended amount of time to be presented compared to Bench Trials. The average Jury Trial can last 4 to 10 days. Additionally, nearly all Jury Trials will be heard by a different judge who is not necessarily familiar with the case history.

Tips for Advocates

Advocates are expected to be present for the trial regardless of the type of trial being conducted. If a trial is expected to take several days to be completed, a subpoena will likely be issued for the advocate so that the parties can insure the advocate is present to testify. All advocates are expected to be present for the case trial regardless of whether or not they are subpoenaed. In cases where a trial is expected to take several days, your CASA Supervisor can keep you updated as to when you might be expected to testify. This is especially true in cases where the Rule is invoked, in which any potential witnesses are excluded from the courtroom and are not allowed to observe the trial until they have testified and been dismissed by the judge.

1. True or False. A CASA Advocate is only expected to attend the trial if they have been subpoenaed.

2. What is required in order for the trial to be a Jury Trial?

3. What are three ways a Bench Trial may be beneficial for reaching a resolution to the case?

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Leticia Hernandez at lhernandez@casa-satx.org.

Advocacy Tip: Bench Trials vs Jury Trials