The right to trial by a jury of one's peers is among the fundamental democratic ideals of our nation. It is the duty and responsibility of all qualified citizens to participate as jurors, but jury service is also an excellent opportunity to contribute to our system of government.
In order for our court system to work properly, judges and jurors must consider the cases before them in a way that is thoughtful, involves sound judgment, is impartial and fair, and shows integrity.
In each trial, the judge determines the rules of law that govern the case. For example, the judge decides what evidence may be presented and admitted during the trial. After listening carefully and considering all of the testimony and evidence presented, the jurors receive instructions from the judge as to the laws that apply to the case. At this time, the responsibility switches to the jurors and they decide which facts in the case are most credible and then apply the law as instructed by the judge in order to reach a verdict.
Juries are typically called to hear two types of cases: Civil and Criminal.
Civil cases involve disputes between people or organizations. They may involve property or personal rights, and include landlord/tenant disputes, vehicular or other personal injury cases, product warranties, contract disputes, harassment and employment disputes.
The party who sues is called the plaintiff or petitioner, while the party being sued is known as the defendant or respondent. The case begins when the plaintiff files a written complaint. The defendant then generally disputes the claim by filing a response.
Criminal cases are pursued on behalf of citizens by the State of California's law enforcement agencies - including the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office. On behalf of the People of the State of California, these agencies file criminal cases against individuals and entities accused of committing crimes. In most cases, a prosecutor files a complaint which explains the charges against the defendant. If the charges are brought before a Grand Jury, the charging document is known as an indictment.