Immediately before trial, each party provides to the judge a document, called a “brief,” that outlines the arguments and evidence to be used at trial. Some trials, known as “bench trials,” do not involve a jury and are decided by the judge alone. Other trials are jury trials. In a jury trial, both parties question potential jurors during a selection process known as “voir dire.” Once the trial begins, each party presents its outline of the case in an opening statement. Then, the parties present evidence.
Each party may call witnesses or introduce documents and exhibits in support of its arguments. After each witness is called and questioned, the opposing party has an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. The plaintiff presents evidence first, then the defendant. Sometimes, the plaintiff is allowed to present additional evidence, called rebuttal evidence, after the defendant has finished presenting its case. Once all the evidence has been presented, the parties give their closing arguments. After closing arguments, the court instructs the jury on the law to be applied to the evidence. The jury then deliberates and reaches a decision or verdict.