Trial Activity Guide
OverviewThis companion guide features background information on the processes of the judicial branch. Pre-site activities include the roles in the courtroom, selecting a jury and filing a subpoena. Post-site activities consist of appealing the case, real world connections and classroom extensions. All of the activities are excellent for classes preparing for a visit to the Old Courthouse.
Vocabularyappeal - to ask a higher court for a review of a lower court's ruling on a case
appellate court - a court that reviews appeals
attorney - a person legally authorized to act on behalf of another in legal matters; typically, someone who has studied and is licensed to practice law
bailiff - an officer of the court; guards the jury and enforces courtroom security
bench - the place in the courtroom where the judge sits
burden of proof - the plaintiff’s duty of proving his/her claim or charge
civil case - a legal action started by one party against another; typically seeks recovery for a private wrong
clerk - officer of the court; maintains public record of court proceedings and swears in the jury and witnesses
closing arguments - final opportunity for attorneys to summarize their arguments and persuade the jury before the close of the trial
criminal case - legal action started by a federal, state or local prosecutor against a party accused of violating a specific law/set of laws
cross-examination - questioning a witness by the opposing attorney
damages - money for injury or loss to be paid by one party to another as ordered by court
defendant - the party/parties in a trial being sued or accused; opposite of plaintiff
deliberate - to think or consider carefully before making a decision; to consider all the evidence in order to reach a just verdict
evidence - something presented before the court (object, witness statement) to support a legal argument
foreperson - chairperson on a jury; a person who leads or organizes the
discussion of a jury and is responsible for trying to keep order.
guilty - judged in a court as having done something wrong
impartial - Not favoring one side or another; fair.
innocent - Not guilty of some crime; blameless.
judge - A public official with power to hear cases in a court of law and decide what laws apply to them.
justice - The upholding of what is just or lawful; the condition of being fair.
jury - A group of people who have sworn to decide the facts in a court case and to reach a fair decision
legal - Of or based on law; allowed by law.
oath - a formal promise to perform a specific duty or act
objection - A request by an attorney during a trial that the judge order the witness not to
answer a question asked by the other attorney. The judge must either “sustain” the objection (agree
with it and forbid the witness to answer it) or “overrule” it (allow the question to be asked).
opening statements - the presentations made by the attorneys on each side of a case at the start of a
overrule - to rule out or set aside a ruling by someone of lesser authority.
parties - individuals, corporations, or groups involved in a case.
plaintiff - person who starts an action, files a complaint, or sues another person.
subpoena - an official paper ordering a person to appear in court.
suit - A lawsuit; an action started by one party against another to recover losses believed to have been
caused by the second party.
Supreme Court - The highest court in a judicial system. Its makes the final decision on cases which it
agrees to review.
sustain - To hold up or support; to uphold as true or right.
testimony - Evidence given after taking an oath in court to tell the truth; questions answered under
oath concerning what one knows about a case being heard in court.
trial - the formal presentation from both sides of a dispute before a jury or a judge
Trial Court - The first court to hear and decide upon a case. If no appeal is made, it is the only
court to hear the case.
unanimous - showing complete agreement, with no one opposed
verdict - The decision that a jury or judge makes after hearing and considering all of the evidence and
testimony in a case.
witness - Someone who has seen or heard something; someone who provides evidence about something; someone who is officially ordered to testify in court.