Civil Court Conundrums

Sasha Pereira

First Time in Court?

If this is your first time in court, or dealing with anything related, don't worry! Many people have to face a jury or judge at some point in their lives, even if they haven't done anything wrong. This brochure will guide you through some of the finer points of the many processes of the federal court.
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You vs. Opponent

First, two of the most important terms to understand are what you and your adversary are politically called.


  • Plaintiff- this person is the one who is filing the lawsuit.
  • Defendant- this is the person being sued.

Whichever one you are, you still have the right to an attorney, who can be court appointed if there are financial issues. Typically civil court cases can include issues such one suing another for damages, or a dispute/failure to complete responsibility.


Examples include:

- property damages

- contractor issues

- negligence

- personal injury

Steps: What Happens When?

  1. The plaintiff hires a lawyer. Then, a complaint is issued. A complaint is a formal statement that names the defendant and describes the lawsuit.
  2. Next, the court sends out a summons, which is a request for the witness'/ defendant's appearance in court on a certain time and day.
  3. Now, the pleadings. This is where lawyers on both sides gather evidence to help their case. Most cases are settles outside of court.
  4. The judge has both parties meet to discuss any differences and to prepare for the trial if they think it will go out of court. These discussions are known as pretrial conferences.
  5. The trial phase is conducted by 6 to 12 jurors, or a single judge. Here, the plaintiff tells his/her side, and the defendant responds. Then, the judge or jury decides the verdict (guilty or innocent). However, if you don't like the verdict you can always appeal the decision if you believe it was the wrong outcome.

Weird Words: Don't Ignore Them!

  1. Mediation- this is a way to solve disputes without going to court. A mediator controls the floor and conversation.
  2. Arbitration- similar to mediation in that it solves disputes, this process uses a judge or juror to conduct the case.
  3. Preponderance of evidence- a fancy way of saying that the plaintiff must come up with solid evidence against the defendant. The quality of evidence is considered over the quantity.