What Does a Court Case Look Like?

Pursuing your interest in Court can be extremely nerve racking. One of the reasons people have anxiety about Court is that they do not know how things work. Many arrive at court without knowing what the steps in the process are, or what is expected of them. This article will explain the basic steps of the average court case, and what you can expect from each stage. Please note, this is not a walkthrough, and you should not rely solely on this in pursuing your claim in Court. If you have legal questions, hire a local attorney.

     The first step in a Court Case is the filing of a claim. As previously discussed, there are a number of factors which determine where you should file. In Circuit Court, a case is typically initiated by filng a "Complaint". This Complaint details what your claim is all about. It lays out the facts which make up your claim and inform the Court why you are there. There are a number of requirements for having a validly drafted Complaint. In General District Court, a case is initiated by filing a Warrant. The specific type of Warrant you are looking for depends on the type of case. Landlord & Tenant disputes typically involve Unlawful Detainers or Tenant's Assertions. Getting your property back from unlawful possession involves Detine. Warrant in Debt is used to pursue contract claims. There are a number of options available. In Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a case is begun by Petition or Motion. There is additional paperwork which must accompany the Complaint.

     After a case is filed, there will need to be "service of process". This means that the opposing party must be informed of the proceedings. Typically speaking, most rely on Sheriffs to have papers served.

     The next step is getting an initial hearing before a Judge. In Juvenile and Domestic Relations and General District Court, you are given an initial return date when you file. At this date, further proceedings may be scheduled, or judgment granted depending on the nature of your claim. This is typically not the trial date. In Circuit Court, a case will sit on the docket until you ask the Judge to take specific action. There are a number of things a person can ask a Circuit Court to do; such as scheduling when things should be accomplished by, setting a hearing for judgment, etc.

     After the initial hearing, a trial date will be set. Prior to this trial date, there will be a process known as "discovery". Discovery is the process by which attorneys typically gain access to information necessary for trial. Attorneys are able to get people to turn over documentation, require people to come testify at Court, or to take depositions, which are basically interviews. The type of discovery best for your case depends on the type of evidence you need to proceed and win your case. There is no one size fits all method of discovery.

     Another process that takes place prior to trials is known as "motions practice". This is something Attorneys do to challenge the sufficiency of the process you have utilized. If there is a deficiency, it may cause your case to be dismissed, which could seriously harm your claim.

     At trial, both sides will be able to put on evidence. The Plaintiff typically goes first. The Plaintiff, or the person who filed suit, may call witnesses and ask them questions. After you are done asking them questions, the other side is allowed to do so. You keep calling questions and putting on evidence until you have run out. At this point, it is the Defendant's turn to put on testimony and evidence. Like the Defendant, you may cross examine and ask questions as well. Some questions are not allowed, and attorneys can object to those questions.

     At the end of the day, however, you should hire an attorney. Primarily because failure to follow the rules at any one of those stages may mean you lose your case. Consult a local attorney whenever you have a claim against someone.