The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), is a group of trial lawyers from every corner of the country. We are committed to training our colleagues in high-quality advocacy in support of our pursuit of litigants’ right to fairness and equal access to justice. For 50 years, NITA has served as the model for advocacy training, including trial techniques and other skills that are universal across venues and among fact finders in any court of law.
Recent articles in the public and legal press have started a discussion about the need for virtual trials. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our judicial system has struggled to balance the competing right of health and safety with the right to due process in criminal and civil actions. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” These words are meant to assure that all levels of American government provide fair procedures that secure an impartial judge or jury, an opportunity for confrontation and cross examination of witnesses, and discovery. For these reasons, NITA urges and promotes in-person jury trials and other adversarial proceedings with approved medical safeguards.
While there understandably have been temporary interruptions to open courtrooms and court proceedings, it is critical that our democracy preserve traditional judicial processes. The fundamental role of the judge or jury in any case is twofold: (1) to decide the facts based on the credibility of the testimony and evidence presented, giving appropriate weight to evidence that may be conflicting; (2) to apply the law to the facts determined to be reliable. In order to judge the credibility of witnesses, a trial must have procedures in place that are effective for determining the truth.