Judicial Branch

Chapter 4
What Happens at the Trial 

All right. You’ve got your robe on, you’re sitting behind the bench looking important, and a trial is about to begin. Now what? As the judge, what will you actually do?

All trials have one thing in common: Someone has to figure out what really happened. In some trials, you—the judge—will get to do that. But most of the time, a jury gets to decide. A jury is a group of regular people who listen to everything happening during the trial and then decide who wins.

But just because there’s a jury doesn’t mean you can sit at the bench listening to your iPod and playing computer games! (Most judges do have a computer at their bench, but they use it to look up court documents—not to surf the internet.)

During the trial, lawyers from both sides will tell the jury their versions of what happened. They’ll show the jury all kinds of evidence to try to prove they’re telling the truth.

There will be witnesses to listen to, pictures to look at, maybe even videos to watch. As the judge, you’ll be like the referee in a sports game. There are lots of rules about what lawyers can and can’t do during a trial, and you’ll have to pay close attention to what’s going on to make sure the lawyers play by those rules.

For example, a lawyer will say “Objection!” if she thinks the lawyer on the other side broke one of the rules. Then you get to decide whether the rule was really broken.

If you think it was, you get to say “Objection sustained!” If not, you’ll say “Objection overruled!”