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.
One of the most important parts of a court proceeding involves someone who almost never says a word: the court reporter. Court reporters are professional employees of the court system who preserve a verbatim record of court proceedings. The word “verbatim” means, “word for word, letter for letter, line for line, literally, exactly, and precisely.” The court reporter’s verbatim record is called a transcript.
Many people assume that judges spend most of their time presiding over jury trials. In fact, nation-wide on average, less than 5 percent of cases ever go to trial. This surprises a lot of people. Where do all the cases go? There are a number of ways that cases can be resolved without a trial.
The role of the courts has received a lot of attention following hearings at the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the law commonly known as “Obamacare.” Many, including the President, have discussed something called “judicial review.” Judicial review refers to a power held by the courts to decide if a law violates the Constitution or not. If the law violates the Constitution, the courts will “strike down” the law declaring it invalid.
“You can’t outrun the long-arm of the law.” That was a popular refrain from a Kenny Rogers song from many years ago. Fugitives from justice can understand the idea of the long-arm of the law through a legal process known as extradition. Extradition deals with one State returning someone to another State to stand trial or to be sentenced in a criminal court action.
Sometimes, when a minor allegedly commits a crime the law provides that society’s interests are better met by treating the juvenile as an adult. This process is known as “certification.”
Minnesota law has rules to decide when a juvenile is certified to be treated as an adult. In Minnesota, a child as young as 14 years old could be certified to adult court.
It is sometimes said that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine. Many people become frustrated that there are so many steps before a criminal case is concluded. However, the process is better thought of as deliberate rather than slow.
People often express concerns about “plea bargains” in criminal cases. They wonder, “Why should a criminal get a bargain? Doesn’t anyone take crime seriously?” In fact, everyone in the criminal justice system takes it very seriously.
Suppose Bob and Steve enter into a contract. Bob buys 2 TV sets from Steve for $100 each. Bob pays Steve the $200 and receives the first TV set but soon discovers that it doesn’t work as well as he had hoped. Steve refuses to return the purchase money. Bob starts a lawsuit.