Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense
When You Need to Fight, Hiring the Right Attorney can be a Life Changing Decision
Civil litigation takes place between private parties in court. The party the brings a claim is the plaintiff. The party defending against that claim is the respondent. At trial, a judge determines the outcome between the parties by applying the law to the facts of the case. The judge's order, often referred to as a court order, is binding on the parties. In some instances, juries are used to help decide issues of fact (e.g. whether the actions of one of the party's was reasonable). Litigation may be necessary to resolve all manner of legal issues such as contract disputes (including breach of contract), land disputes such as trespass or violations of deed restrictions, and business disputes such as conflicts between business partners. Often times money is at stake in civil litigation. However, the courts are empowered to issue injunctions and restraining orders to force the parties to do something or refrain from taking an action.
In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for contracts to include an arbitration or mediation clause. And, sometimes, courts will order the parties to go to mediation. Arbitration is often a private forum where an arbitrator occupies the role of a judge in that arbitrator renders a decision, at the end of the process, that is binding on the parties. In arbitration, the parties, by agreement, may be able to control and limit elements of the process (e.g. discovery), thereby limiting the time and cost of the arbitration process. In addition to litigation and mediation, sometimes the parties are able to resolve their differences in mediation. Mediation is typically not binding, meaning the mediator will work with the parties towards a settlement but will not decide the matter for the parties. Mediation is often a private process and not discoverable at trial. If the parties are able to settle their differences, they codify their agreement in a settlement agreement. The agreement is a contract that if not followed gives rise to a breach of contract claim.
Criminal defense, in contrast to civil litigation, takes place between the state and a private citizen. The state, represented by a "prosecutor", brings charges against a citizen, the "defendant", alleging that the defendant violated a law. And, the judge determines the defendant's innocence or guilt by applying the law to the facts of the case. A jury may be used to decide issues of fact. And, typically, the defendant faces jail time and/or fines. Evidence is collected by law enforcement and used at trial to help prove the prosecutions case. However, the defendant is entitled to review all of the prosecutions' evidence, interview the prosecutions' witness in a process called a "deposition", and develop their own evidence and witnesses.
Preparing for and conducting a trial, whether a civil litigation, a criminal defense, arbitration, or mediation is a very complex affair. An attorney should always be retained to help navigate the complexities of the legal system.
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