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Litigation is generally defined as the process by which a case is resolved by a trial in a court of law. The two basic types of litigation law involve civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, there are types of litigation law for every area of practice. The law and legal issues in each type of case is different, but the process of litigating the cases is the same.
In civil litigation, there are lawyers who may only work in negligence litigation law and some who may only work in the area of commercial litigation. A litigation lawyer may try cases involving business law, which could involve contract disputes. Litigation occurs in many the areas of the law, including employment law, entertainment law, malpractice, civil rights, and in specialized areas of the law like patent and trademark law. The cases in civil law will generally involve issues of money damages, though sometimes they might be litigated to redress or prevent a specific harm.
In the area of criminal law, the issue is whether the defendant is guilty of a criminal offense. The state must prove all the elements of the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to be found guilty. The rules of procedure are different in some respects in a criminal case, because of the constitutional protections afforded someone standing trial for a criminal offense. For instance, a defendant in a criminal case cannot be compelled to testify at trial. The extra procedural protections in a criminal case are due to a defendant’s potential loss of liberty, sometimes even life, if the state prevails.
Other types of litigation law involve military and administrative law. The law and the rules governing military trials are set out the by the US Congress. Military law does, however, incorporate some procedural and evidentiary rules used in federal courts. Administrative trials, sometimes called “hearings,” are litigated before administrative law judges and involve a government agency as either the plaintiff or the defendant. Issues in these cases generally involve enforcement of regulatory laws or the denial of government benefits.
Although the types of litigation law are numerous, the process of litigation is the same. The parties to the action are a plaintiff and defendant. In civil cases, the plaintiff is the party alleging that a legal wrong has been done to her. In criminal cases, the plaintiff is the people of the state in which the crime is alleged to have occurred, represented by a state’s or district attorney. The parties in any legal action may present motions to the court regarding legal issues in the case, make opening and closing statements, and present evidence through documents and witnesses.
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