Pre-Trial Procedures in A Civil Trial

In civil trials, one person or party has reached the conclusion that their outstanding disagreement or dispute with another individual or entity can no longer be resolved through informal damage plea bargaining without the intervention of the judicial system and a civil trial. To initiate the process of a civil trial, individuals are required to file a complaint within the court of appropriate jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is determined by assessing whether the court receiving the complaint has power over a defendant and whether the property involved in a dispute is within the given jurisdiction. Filing a complaint in the wrong jurisdiction leaves the courts no choice, but to decline to rule or even hear the case until filed in the correct jurisdiction. A petitioner for the plaintiff, generally an attorney, will file the complaint in the correct jurisdiction, along with a motion in limine requesting the admission of evidence to bolster plaintiff's complaint claims.

Complaints contain the following information

  • A request to summons the named defendant or defendants
  • Details the plaintiff's side of dispute
  • States the legal basis of the civil case
  • Demands remedy, in the form of damages, injunction, or declaratory judgment

Following the filing and delivery of a complaint, or lawsuit, defendants have a period of time to answer all allegations. Additionally, parties mentioned in the complaint or claim may offer any pertinent information in a reply. Finally, defendants may also file their own suit, known as a counterclaim against the plaintiff, which is part of their answer to a suit or as an entirely separate legal action.

Aside from pleadings in the pre-trial phase of civil litigation, parties involved in civil litigation may also file motions with a civil judge. Motions can include items such as:

  • Motion for summary judgment, which asks for a decision to be rendered immediately regarding the stated facts
  • Motion to dismiss, which requests the civil courts end legal actions in light of claims or complaints having no legal basis
  • Motion to discover, which involves one or both parties requesting evidence or information from one another.

Discovery in Civil Pre-Trial Litigation

Discovery in pre-trial litigation is a formal process that entails both plaintiffs and defendants exchanging information regarding the evidence, witnesses, and other pertinent information to be presented at the civil trial. Discovery allows each side to construct a clear picture of their adversary's contentions, complaints, and basis of defense against claims brought into the court. Some of the most common forms of discovery and information gathering include:

  • Depositions
  • Subpoenaing
  • Undergoing physical examinations
  • Ascertaining the veracity of presented documents

In a deposition, attorneys for each party will pose a number of interrogatories, or questions, to witnesses and individuals involved in the civil case, which are often done under oath. These depositions will be recorded via writing or videotape and used by both sides in a civil trial. Additionally, attorneys for both parties will seek to discredit the evidence and documents presented by opposing sides through their own gamut of physical examinations by experts, as well as authenticating the factual and real nature of all provided documents.