Civil and Criminal Litigation
If a case requires a hearing or trial to be resolved, then it falls under the area of law practice known as litigation. To litigate is to be involved in a lawsuit; if there is no dispute or conflict, as in a dissolution, the case is likely to be settled out of court, without witness testimony or presentation of evidence.
In civil litigation, the goal is conflict resolution, and in criminal litigation, the goal is to prove a party guilty, and punish the wrongdoing according to the law.
In civil cases, before anything hits a courtroom, informal communications usually take place with or without an attorney. The party or the party’s attorney may request the other side to stop (sometimes cease and desist) the action or violation/unwanted behavior in question. Sometimes this is enough to resolve and settle the issue, but if the request is ignored, or if there is further disagreement, the case will proceed to hearing before a judge or magistrate.
This is the point at which, if you haven’t already, hiring an attorney is highly recommended. There are a lot of pitfalls in the litigation process, and an experienced lawyer can help you navigate procedures and process in order to reach a desirable outcome.
What is a pretrial?
A pretrial is a meeting with the attorneys and Judge or Magistrate to discuss the legal or factual issues pertinent to your case. This may also be the time when procedural matters and deadlines are discussed, as well as possible settlement positions between parties. A pretrial is different from a hearing, in that it does not require witness testimony unless a settlement is reached.
At a hearing, the Magistrate will hear sworn testimony from witnesses and consider any documentary evidence and exhibits. It is likely the Magistrate will take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision sometime after conclusion of the hearing rather than rule from the bench on the date of your hearing.
It is possible the case may not conclude on the hearing date. Further, because the court schedules multiple cases before the same Judge and Magistrate on the same day, it is sometimes possible that your case will not be heard on the scheduled date and will have to be postponed (known as a continuance). Even if your case has to be continued, the Judge or Magistrate will likely go over any factual or legal issues with the attorneys and outline settlement positions.
Post-trial, your case may be appealed to the appellate court if it meets certain conditions. If you’re considering an appeal, consult with your attorney to determine the best course of action.