If a person is a witness to an incident, such as fight in a night club where someone is seriously injured, or has pertinent evidence relating to a lawsuit, she may be required by the court to participate in a deposition and compelled to testify at trial. This means that the person may need to take time off from work, arrange for childcare, or otherwise be inconvenienced. Witnesses, other than hired experts, and deposed parties, do not get paid for their participation. On top of that, they could be considered in contempt of court if they do not show up when ordered to, and penalized.
Following the guidelines for all posts, discuss the ethical issues raised by the payment of witnesses in civil trials, and address the following questions.
1. Should an injured party (ie, the plaintiff) in a civil suit be able to compel a person to testify at trial or participate in a deposition?
2. Should witnesses in civil or criminal trials be paid for their expenses related to their participation such as missed work or childcare expenses? Are there ethical considerations raised by paying lay ( non-expert) witnesses?
3. Should jurors be treated the same or differently than witnesses? Note that jurors do receive some small compensation in many jurisdictions.
4. Would justice be affected if the parties were not able to compel the participation of witnesses?
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