When I was practicing law part of my work included representing a number of cities and townships. One day a man called and asked if I was the City Attorney for a certain city. I told him that I was. He then began to tell me about a problem that he had with a car that he had recently purchased. After a few moments I asked why he was calling me as the City Attorney to discuss this private issue. He said that he lived in that city and paid taxes, therefore I had to represent him. He was somewhat upset when I told him that that is not what city attorneys do.
Lawyers provide a number of services such as advising their clients about the merits of claims, offering strategic advice, performing legal research, and preparing legal documents. However, while these services can be invaluable, they also come at a financial cost. Because of this, many people choose to represent themselves in court.
“You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you . . .” So begins the famous “Miranda Warnings” that so many of us first learned about while watching TV shows growing up. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision, “Miranda vs. Arizona,” which has forever changed the way law enforcement handles custodial interrogations.
You have probably heard news stories about people who won’t face trial because they are not competent to proceed through the legal process. This is a different legal issue than when a jury finds someone not guilty by reason of mental illness or defect.
When I was growing up my parents always wanted me to carry a dime in my pocket. If there was an emergency, I was to find a pay phone and call them. Today, dimes in the pocket are out and technology is in. Many parents initially agree to get cell phones for their children so that if there is an emergency, the child can easily call for help.
Do you remember the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan? A victimized traveler laying on the side of the road is cared for by a passing man from Samaria. Feeling a personal moral obligation to love his neighbor as himself, the Samaritan tended to the victim’s wounds and then took him to an inn where he personally paid for his care and keep.
Trial court judges hear testimony, review evidence, and apply the law in making decisions. Sometimes one side or another believes that the trial judge erred either in analyzing the evidence or in applying the law. Our judicial system allows for people to appeal to the Court of Appeals or, in some cases, the Supreme Court
Have you ever heard about something called “Discovery” in relation to civil lawsuits? Discovery is the process by which each side can discover the basis of the other party’s claims and allows each side to see almost all of the evidence that the other side will use in the case.
Discovery became possible in the United States following the Federal courts adoption of discovery rules in 1938. After that, every state has adopted similar rules. Earlier, when someone started a lawsuit the defending party would not know exactly what the evidence was until the trial started.
Judges hear disputes dealing with some of the most important aspects of people’s lives. We hear child custody disputes, restraining order requests, disagreements about contracts and estates, and a variety of other matters.
People sometimes get frustrated with our criminal court system when a person charged with a horrific crime enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. There seems to be a common belief that this is a legal loophole that routinely allows guilty people to escape responsibility for their crimes.