The Role of the Judge 

A judge presides over your case whenever the matter is in court. The judge is required to be impartial and therefore will not “advise” you about the case beyond telling you what your rights are and, in criminal cases, what penalties are possible if you are found guilty. In civil cases, the judge will likely inform you what the plaintiff is seeking against you, and probably will advise you to retain an attorney.

Beyond this, it is the judge’s job to see to it that the case goes to trial in a reasonable time period if the dispute cannot be resolved by the parties through negotiation. It is also the judge’s job to rule on various “motions” which either party might bring before, during, or after trial. A motion is a request made to the judge for the purpose of obtaining a ruling or order directing some act to be done in favor of the applicant. An attorney can explain the purpose of motions and when they are applicable.

At trial, the judge’s role depends on whether you have chosen to have a jury trial, or a bench trail. In a jury trial, the judge presides over the trial ruling on motions and objections made by the lawyers, but does not make the ultimate decision.  The ultimate decision is made by the jury. In a bench trial, the judge makes the same kind of procedural and evidentiary rulings as in a jury trial, but also decides the case itself as well. 

The decisions made by a judge are appealable to a higher court. Appeals are expensive and time consuming. For more information on appeals, see APPEALS.