Step 4: Pre-Trails: Before We Get Going, Let’s Talk about the Issues
This week we will be discussing the Pre-Trial Conference
An important step in a civil action is the Pre-Trial Conference (“Pre-Trial”). A Pre-Trial is an opportunity for the parties to meet face to face and have a candid discussion about issues ahead of trial with the goals of narrowing issues before they go to trial, addressing issues which are not relevant to the case, or even coming to a resolution to the issues without a trial. For these reasons Pre-Trials are both an administrative tool to ensure cases brought to trial are an effective use of the court system, as well as further the goals of resolving civil actions ahead of trial. Depending on the jurisdiction, a Pre-Trial may be mandatory, while in other locations they are only available by request.
Pre-Trials are overseen by a judge (or some other judicial officer). This judge will not be the judge at trial. Having a judge who will not preside at trial is intended to encourage parties to speak openly about the case and to hear an objective opinion on the issues. The Pre-Trial can be very helpful for parties and their counsel, as it can unclutter the issues ahead of a trial and allows for the parties to hear a judicial opinion on the merits of their case.
A Pre-Trial is a space to discuss the issues to be heard at trial, not to adjudicate these issues. For this reason, witnesses are not present at a Pre-Trial. While witnesses are not called, Pre-Trials require full discovery to occur ahead of the conference, as the assumption is that by the time of Pre-Trail the parties are ready for trial. This connects back to the previous blog dealing with the discovery process, as for the Pre-Trial judge to give a true opinion on the case or to help narrow the issues, they must also have access to the evidence the parties intend to rely on. This does not mean they will be hearing submissions on the evidence, but will rely on it to understand how it applies to the issues that are being discussed.
Pre-Trials are often a useful step within a civil action; as it can save the time of all parties involved, help them better organize their issues, and tighten their arguments ahead of trail. Pre-Trials can sometimes resolve the issues to the point where a trial may not be necessary. This is not always the case, and where a Pre-Trial fails to resolve an issue, the next step in a civil action is to head to trial, which will be the topic of next week’s blog.
If you would like to discuss a potential civil action, our team of experienced litigators can help. Contact us online for a free legal consultation or call 705-526-1471 to speak directly with one of our lawyers.