VII. PROCEEDING WITH A CIVIL CASE
It is the
court's responsibility to manage the process
by which cases are heard and decided.
to move cases along, and see that they are
resolved in a timely manner, courts have
firm deadlines by which certain events should
take place. These are commonly referred to
as time standards.
lawyers, and litigants are all expected to
meet the court's deadlines.
circumstances, the court may extend time
periods or change deadlines to meet the particular
needs of the parties or the public.
A. What is a case management conference?
After an answer has been filed with the court,
a case management conference may be scheduled by the court. If
you fail to appear at the case management conference, there may
be negative consequences. The judge, clerk-magistrate or assistant
clerk-magistrate will conduct the case management conference.
Depending upon the court and the matter, these proceedings may
be short and simple, or they could be long and complex. At the
case management conference the parties may:
Establish deadlines for
Resolve discovery disputes
Discuss adding parties
Determine if the case
is ready for trial
Schedule a pre-trial conference
Schedule a trial
B. What is discovery?
Discovery is a way for you and the other side to
exchange information. Typically this process occurs after a complaint
and answer have been filed and one party asks another party to
produce documents or respond in another way to a request for
information. In some cases, however, for example in certain family
law cases, the parties are required to exchange financial information
within a certain amount of time after the complaint is filed
even if one party does not request it from the other party.
Discovery will help you prepare your witnesses
and determine which documents you want to submit to the court
if your case goes to trial. All aspects of discovery are governed
by rules and law. You need to know the rules that apply to your
There are several types of discovery. Some examples
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories
are written questions to be answered in writing and signed
under oath that one side sends to the other.
Requests for Production
of Documents: Each side can ask the other side to provide
copies of documents relevant to the case.
Depositions: A deposition
is an opportunity to question the other party or a witness
in the case. Depositions are typically recorded by a court
reporter and a transcript may be prepared. Usually the party
scheduling the deposition pays the costs involved.
Requests for Admissions:
Each side can ask the other side to admit or deny statements
related to the case.
Independent Medical Examinations:
In some cases, the other side can request that a physician
or therapist hired by them be allowed to examine the injured
In certain family law cases, the parties are required to
exchange specific financial information with the other side
after the complaint is filed, even if the other side does
not request the information. You need to follow the specific
rules that apply to your case.
Except when your case requires self-disclosure,
you are not required to conduct discovery. However, if the other
side sends you discovery requests, you must respond as required
by the applicable rules. The rules include strict time limits.
If you fail to comply, you could be penalized by the court. You
may even risk losing your case. Know the rules that apply to
your case and follow them.
Discovery is an important part of
litigation. There are strict rules that govern
Failure of the defendant to provide
discovery when required to do so by the rules or
order of the court could result in a default judgment.
A default judgment is when the trial judge enters
judgment in favor of the plaintiff without hearing
from the defendant. It is a final decision resolving
Failure of the plaintiff to provide
discovery when required to do so could result in
dismissal of the plaintiff's case. A dismissal
is also a final determination by the court of the
rights of the parties.
C. After discovery, what's next?
After discovery is completed, a number of things
may happen, including:
- Settlement: Each
party can see the strengths and weaknesses of their own case
and of the other side's case, perhaps making it possible
to reach an agreement in the case without going to trial.
Refer to Section X: Settling the Case.
Summary Judgment: Either
party can file a pre-trial motion asking the judge to decide
the case without a trial based on a claim that the facts
are not in dispute and that the law, when applied to those
facts, entitles that party to a favorable judgment.
case may proceed to trial.
D. Do most civil cases go to trial?
No. Many people believe
that every case proceeds to trial and every party gets his
or her day in court. You may picture yourself questioning witnesses
in your case and making a closing argument. However, the fact
is that very few cases actually go to trial. The vast majority
of cases are settled by agreement of the parties. The agreement
may be reviewed by the judge and may become part of a final
order or judgment in the case.
E. What is a pre-trial conference?
If your case is proceeding to trial, a pre-trial
conference may be scheduled. The pre-trial conference provides
an opportunity for the parties to:
- Discuss settlement
- Establish deadlines for
- Add parties, if allowed
- Address motions
- Resolve discovery disputes
- Determine if the case
is ready for trial
The pre-trial conference is usually conducted by
a judge. The parties may request a pre-trial conference or the
court may schedule one to make sure the case keeps moving.
At the pre-trial conference, you may be required
to file a pre-trial memorandum. You need to follow any rules,
orders or instructions of the court related to the preparation
of your memorandum and appearance at the pre-trial conference.
If you do not appear at the pre-trial conference or file the
memorandum as required, you may be penalized or even lose your
chance to bring or defend your claim.
A trial date is often set at the pre-trial conference.