Understanding Court Trial Procedures

Lawsuits have become an important tool in resolving disputes these days. This is in part due to the fact that its outcome is usually legally binding and enforceable. However, lawsuits have gotten more complicated. It is thus important for one to be familiar with the different court trial procedures. Here, we take you through the progression of a lawsuit.


The first step of any legal proceeding is the filing of the suit. Here, the complainant, also known as the plaintiff, files a complaint seeking to recover damages from a defendant. This is considered as the first pleading. It is important to consider the venue for filing the suit. For example, any family related matters should be filed with the family court.

The court then serves a summons to the defendant named in the lawsuit. This notifies the defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against him and typically includes the allegations or charges brought against him, as well as the date set for a hearing or the deadline by which the defendant must submit his response.

The defendant then files an answer to the allegations made, whether by admitting or denying it, and states his defenses. In some cases, the defendant may opt to file a demurrer rather than an answer. The defendant can also file a cross-complaint or a counter-claim.


During this pre-trial stage, both sides to the proceeding will exchange statements and evidences. This is meant to clarify what the suit really is all about and to drop unwarranted claims, if any, before it goes to trial.

The discovery phase can also include the handing out of subpoenas, should any of the parties wish to obtain evidence from people or organizations not directly involved in the legal proceeding.

Jury Selection

The selection of a trial jury marks the end of the pre-trial phase. Both parties may pick out a jury for jury trials. However, this process is skipped for bench trials.


When the case goes to trial, each side presents their evidences, as well as their witnesses, to corroborate their allegations or their defenses. The trial ends when the judge or the jury hands out a judgment. Not all cases, though, reach this point as the case may go into settlement. Also, in some instances, one party may file for summary judgment or for a dismissal.


After hearing sides, the jury (in a trial by jury) or a judge (in a bench trial) hands out a decision. This is the finding or ruling made based on the evidences provided throughout the course of trial. The judge also typically issues a punishment or a fine.


Following the issuance of a judgment, any of the parties may file an appeal with an appellate court if they believe an error was made by the lower court. This will jumpstart the process of review to be conducted by the Court of Appeals or by a higher court.



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