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Press Release: Legal Lines with Locke Meredith

Tim Kelley

Show # 114


Attorney Locke Meredith discusses with Judge, Tim Kelley, the construction of a new court house as well as how trial and appellate courts work. Judge Kelley is running for the first circuit court of appeals. Judge Kelley is currently Judge for the Nineteenth Judicial Court.

Judge Kelley informs us that as a Trial Judge, he sees lawsuits between two disputing parties. Cases with damages in excess of fifty thousand dollars generally call for a jury. Jury trials are more complex and expensive, because the jury must be educated on the law before the trial begins. One individual suing another is known as a civil trial, as opposed to a criminal trial. The process of collecting the information that is brought to trial is called Discovery. Because all information is collected before trial, and both sides have access to it, most cases are solved before ever needing to go to trial. This is known as a settlement.

In starting a case, first a letter is sent out to collect interrogatories as well as a request for production documents. Interragotories are written questions requiring a written response from the other side. The documents requests are forms of evidence to help the parties determine fault: photographs, the car that was hit, ect. The next step is to get depositions from witnesses. These are sworn testimonies by witnesses that can be used in trial. There are two types of depositions: discovery and perpetuation for trial. Discovery depositions just depict what the witness knows, while perpetuation for trial depositions are for witnesses who will not be able to make it to trial. This often induces the use of a video deposition. Sometimes this information can lead to what is known as an exception. This means the law does not provide you a remedy based on these facts. All information is presented to the Judge ahead of trial, narrowing the case down to the essentials. This is when sometimes the cases are terminated.

The next step in the process is trial preparation. A jury is selected by sending out hundreds of notices to the public, and then these individuals are questioned to find twelve unbiased jurors to serve. Usually there are more than twelve selected who see all the evidence, the extras being alternates, and then once trial begins, the alternates are dismissed, if all jurors are present. Trial begins with the testifying of the witnesses. Following this, documents are identified and evidence is presented. The purpose of trial is to present information accumulated in discovery and to have experts testify about this information. Following this, the plaintiff and defense both make a closing statement to the jury, with the plaintiff making some final statements at the end. Finally, the jurors are instructed by the Judge, on the law.

Educating the jurors on the law is done by the Judge reading the jury instruction. After this, the jury deliberates. They go over evidence, make a decision, and fill out jury interrogatories. These are a series of questions they must answer about what they believe about the case, such as who was at fault, amount of damages, ect. It takes nine out of twelve jurors to agree on a decision in a civil case to render a verdict.

Once the trial is over, if the plaintiff is dissatisfied with the result, they can go to another court, the Appellate Court, and ask them to review the trial process to see if anything went wrong. This is called an appeal. Once that process is done, the plaintiff has thirty days to file a suspensive appeal. This is where they file a bond equal to one and a quarter times the judgment value to stop the enforcement of that judgment. This bond acts as an insurance policy in the event that a case is not successful in the appeal process, guaranteeing the defense still pays the plaintiff the amount the trial case awarded them.

Judge Kelley is running for the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and he explains the difference between this role and that of a Trial Judge. Trial Judges see and examine all the evidence, where Appellate Court Judges review whether Trial Judges do their job properly, or if they have made mistakes. There are forty-two District Courts, Four Appellate Courts, and one Supreme Court.