NO ONE EXCEPT A CRIMINAL expects to be charged with a crime, and few of us ever
contemplate the possibility of a lawsuit, it seems that the more we know about
how our legal system works, the more likely we are to respect the rights of
others while demanding that our own rights are respected. Hence this chapter on
how the legal system works.
Subsequent chapters will explain your legal rights in a nation dedicated to the rule of law; this chapter will give you an overview of how our legal system can give those rights meaning.
Why do we have an
“adversarial” legal system?
American courtroom procedures are based on historical
precedent, modified by the needs andexperience of lawyers and judges.
When two parties cannot agree on their respective rights and obligations, or
even on what gave rise to the dispute, the system provides each side with an
equal opportunity to present its case (and to point out the weaknesses in its
opponent’s case) to a neutral judge or jury. Each side is championed by a
lawyer following the same statutes, case law, and rules of procedure. The
system is designed to permit the truth to emerge whether the case is criminal
or civil in nature.