Journalist's Guide

since there is no need for all the extra procedures. All cases but small-claims cases follow the rules of evidence.

Prior to the commencement of a Circuit Court trial, the attorneys will often meet with the judge to discuss preliminary matters, such as any outstanding motions in limine , which are pre-trial motions to exclude or limit certain evidence, to propose jury instructions, to make stipulations, and similar actions. Often at this point the judge will attempt one last time to settle the matter prior to trial. In a jury trial, the attorneys then begin the process of jury selection. The civil jury consists of six individuals, unlike the 12 required in criminal trials, often with at least one alternate in the event a juror becomes unable to serve or is disqualified. In a process called voir dire , questions are posed to potential jurors to inquire into such matters as their knowledge of the parties and the facts of the case and their background and attitude toward relevant issues. The parties may propose additional questions directed to the particular facts of the case, but unlike other states, Maryland judges have much more control over what the potential jurors can be asked and what role the attorneys play in the questioning. The attorneys have a list of potential jurors, from which they may make four strikes, called peremptory challenges . A party may also challenge any juror for cause , such as if the juror would not be able to disregard feelings about a certain issue and render a fair and impartial verdict. After opening statements (which preview expected evidence but which are not evidence themselves), each side presents witnesses, exhibits and other evidence. At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the defendant may make a motion for judgment contending the plaintiff did not put on enough evidence to satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of proof. If this is denied, the defendant puts on a case. After all the evidence is in, the judge, in a jury trial, instructs the jury as to the law the jury is expected to follow when reaching its verdict. The parties then present their closing arguments (which are not evidence but which discuss the presence or absence of the evidence presented) and the jury retires to the jury room to begin deliberations. The jury’s verdict and decisions on monetary awards must be unanimous. A party on the losing side may, if they made a motion for judgment, make a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) asking the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict and find for the side making the motion. The parties may also make motions asking the court to add to or reduce the size of the award.

Any dissatisfied party may, within certain time periods, file other motions such as a motion asking the court for a new trial. The parties also have a right to appeal the court’s decision, normally within 30 days of the entry of judgment.

Burden of Proof In the usual civil trial, the plaintiff is required to prove the defendant liable by a preponderance of the evidence . That is, the plaintiff must prove it is “more likely than not” that the defendant is


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