Should I Ever Choose a Bench Trial Over a Trial By Jury?
When it is time to have your case heard in court, you may be given the option to appear in front of a judge or a jury of your peers. Many people wonder if it is a better idea to appear in front of a judge only or, in other words, to choose a bench trial.
There are different reasons why it may be wise to choose a bench trial instead of a trial by jury. During a bench trial, a judge plays two roles. The judge is the person who makes sure that the law is abided by, and they act as the ultimate fact finder, determining guilt or innocence. At times, attorneys advise their clients to choose a bench trial when the specifics of the case are overly complicated. Attorneys worry about confusing juries who are not familiar with the intricacies of the law. Defense attorneys believe that a bench trial is often more favorable for their clients.
On the other hand, a trial by jury is often better for plaintiffs. This is especially true in a civil case where the standard of proof is lower. While a judge understands this standard of proof, many juries do not. Instead, they rely solely on the evidence, something that often favors plaintiffs. Because the plaintiff has the ability to rely almost solely on evidence, they can then shift their concentration to maximum recovery of damages.
Juries may be more swayed by emotions than a judge, which is another benefit of having a trial by jury. Juries may not be knowledgeable of the nuances of a case. While a judge understands the subtleties of a civil case, a jury is listening based on past experiences and current beliefs. It can be much easier to get a jury on your side than to do the same with a judge.
All of this said, one of the biggest benefits of having a trial by jury is the amount of damages awarded. Juries tend to award higher amounts than judges because they are ruled by their emotions. It is a fact that the biggest verdicts, or damages, have come from juries. As such, a defense attorney may recommend accepting a bench trial if possible if the case is an emotional one.
If you are considering a civil suit in Atlanta and would like to discuss your case with an attorney, reach out to Hawkins Spizman Fortas. We have attorneys experienced in both civil and criminal law ready to speak with you at no cost. Call today to schedule an appointment.