Basic Procedure for Civil Law Cases

Guide For New Law Clients

What is Civil Law Case

A noncriminal lawsuit, usually involving private property rights. For example, lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence, and copyright violations


The Complaint

Litigation begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the court and formally delivers a copy to the defendant. The complaint describes what the defendant did (or failed to do) that caused harm to the plaintiff and the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible for that harm.

The Summon

The defendant is given a specific amount of time to file an answer to the complaint. The answer provides the defendant's side of the dispute. The defendant may also file counter-claims against the plaintiff, alleging that the plaintiff has harmed the defendant and should be held liable for that harm.

Pretrial Conference

A pretrial conference is a meeting of the parties to a case conducted prior to trial. The conference is held before the trial judge or a magistrate, a judicial officer who possesses fewer judicial powers than a judge. The pretrial conference could also be refer to as the discovery process.

Trial Time

So when trial begins, each party presents its outline of the case in an opening statement. Then, the parties present evidence. Each party may call witnesses or introduce documents and exhibits in support of its arguments. After each witness is called and questioned, the opposing party has an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. The plaintiff presents evidence first, then the defendant. Though the requirement is 50% or more evidence point to something (preponderance of evidence) and if one side have alot more then the other side the following result in a instant victory for side number one. Once all the evidence has been presented, the parties give their closing arguments. After closing arguments, the court instructs the jury on the law to be applied to the evidence. The jury then reaches a verdict (a decision on a disputed issue in a civil case). T

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Following trial, a party dissatisfied with the result may appeal. During an appeal, a party asks a higher court to review the trial court proceeding. The parties present their arguments in briefs, which are submitted to the appellate court along with the record of evidence from the trial court. The appellate court usually reviews a case for legal error only. Except under unusual circumstances, the appellate court will not review factual evidence or override a jury's findings of fact. The appellate court announces its decision in a document called an opinion. The appellate court will affirm the verdict if it finds that there was no error in the trial court proceeding. An appeal can extend the litigation process by a year or more.

Alternatives to Litigation

Mediation "Mediator Job"

The mediator's job is to assist the parties' settlement efforts. The parties select the mediator, who meets privately with each party to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each side's case. The mediator helps the parties identify the risks of the case and encourages them to consider how those risks can affect their goals. The mediator does not have the power to force the parties to agree on a settlement.

Arbitration "Arbitrator Job"

an adversarial proceeding in which the parties select a neutral third party, called an "arbitrator," to resolve their dispute. In arbitration, the parties present evidence and argue the case to the arbitrator, who then decides which party wins. The process is abbreviated and less formal than a trial. Arbitration often arises from private agreement, but many courts also require the parties to smaller disputes to explore arbitration as an alternative to trial. Parties who agree to settle their dispute using binding arbitration usually cannot appeal the arbitrator's ruling to a court.

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