Going to trial has often been likened to a roll of the dice - a gamble. No one can predict a trial's outcome, whether it's a member of the jury or the judge. However, while trials are hard to forecast, the trial itself is not a random process.

Usually the first form you file will be called a Petition or a Complaint. It is usually easy to read, but almost always contains some potential pitfalls that, if not completed properly, can cause your case to be rejected by the Clerk of the Court. You must follow all of the directions and you usually must complete all of the blanks. You cannot rely on the court to provide any information.

Pretrial Conferences: Typically, there are several hearings in the weeks before the trial where the judge and attorneys will work to narrow issues for trial, discuss witnesses and exhibits, and draft a "Pretrial Order" that serves as both a set of rules and an outline for the trial.

Many states have a procedure sometimes known as a Request for Admission, where if formally asked about some fact(s), a party can admit the truth of it. The purpose is to save time, although to an outsider, it may look like a complete waste of time.

Whenever a party wishes to request something from the judge during the case, such as a clarification or limitation, they can file a motion in accordance with the rules specified in their state’s civil procedure statutes. This is the way of getting the judge to take notice of the problem, and asking for a judicial ruling.


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