Getting Ready for Trial – Civil Cases (2023)

Pretrial conference

When the court receives the Certification of Readiness for Trial it will schedule a pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is a meeting with the parties, their attorneys (if they have attorneys) and the judge or commissioner assigned to the case. The judge or commissioner will lead a discussion about:

  • Whether the parties can settle some parts or all of the case – the case could be assigned to another judge for help with settlement
  • How long the trial will take, how many witnesses each side plans to call
  • Deadlines to prepare for trial and when the trial will be scheduled

Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 16lists the issues that may be addressed at the pretrial conference.

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After the pretrial conference the parties should contact the judicial assistant for their judge to schedule the trial. See thecourt directoryfor contact information.

Trial issues

One of the documents the parties must prepare before a pretrial conference is called Trial Issues.

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This is a list of issues that will be decided at trial, and what each party's position is on that issue. This document will be used to identify the specific issues in dispute, and to clarify what each party's position is on those issues. If something is not listed on that form, that issue cannot be raised at the trial.

Evidence at trial

Trial is your chance to present proof to the court that supports your side of the story. This proof could be the testimony of witnesses, documents, emails, or something else. This is called evidence. The judge will consider whether or not the evidence you provide at trial is "admitted into evidence."

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What is admitted into evidence can be important. At the end of the trial the court will decide what happens. The court will only consider evidence that has been admitted and apply it to the applicable law in your case. The rules about what information a judge can consider are called theUtah Rules of Evidence.

Pay careful attention to the deadlines below and to the rules of evidence to help you get your evidence admitted at trial.

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Pretrial disclosures

The court might issue a pretrial order after the pretrial conference. The deadlines for your case are based on the pretrial order. If there is no pretrial order then the deadlines below will apply. At least 28 days before trial (or 14 in an eviction case), the parties are required to exchange evidence. This is similar to theinitial disclosures. Required exchanges include:

  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers for each witness to be called to testify (unless the witness is to attack the credibility of another witness)
  • Names of witnesses whose testimony will be presented by transcript of a deposition and a copy of the transcript with the proposed testimony highlighted
  • Copies of each exhibit, including charts, summaries and demonstrative exhibits (unless the exhibit is used to attack the credibility of a witness)

At least 14 days before trial (or 7 in an eviction case), the parties are required to serve:

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  • Objections to admissibility of exhibits or use of deposition testimony (sometimes these objections are called motions in limine). Objections to admissibility are governed by theUtah Rules of Evidence. Generally, not objecting means the evidence can be admitted at trial.
  • Selections from transcripts from deposition received from the other party they plan to use.

Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(5).

Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time

If both parties in a domestic case agree, they can have an informal trial on issues related to support, custody or parent-time, or some combination of these issues. The rules for this kind of trial are different. You can find more information on theInformal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Timeweb page.

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Preparing for trial

There are many different parts to a trial. Below is a summary of what happens and what to prepare for. Going to trial is complicated. Considergetting legal helpfor this part of your case.


Why do most civil cases never go to trial? ›

Most civil cases are settled out of court because both parties realize that it is the most efficient way to resolve the dispute. Out-of-court settlements also avoid the risk of an unfavorable verdict from a jury or judge and reputational damage.

How do you impress a judge in court? ›

6 Tips to Make a Good First Impression in Court
  1. Know the judge.
  2. Be organized with your paperwork.
  3. Dress Appropriately.
  4. Stay calm in front of the jury.
  5. Keep eye contact with the jury.
  6. Don't be late to court.
Jul 12, 2023

What is the first step in a civil trial? ›

Pleadings – the First Step in a Civil Lawsuit. Pleadings are the initial step in the civil lawsuit. Each side, or party, will file paperwork in the relevant court to explain their side of the story. The person bringing on the lawsuit, or plaintiff, will file a complaint.

What should I bring to trial? ›

Prepare your own “care package” ahead of time. — Bring a water bottle, snack bar, breath mints (not gum), note pad, a couple of pens, a check book (in case you unexpectedly need to write the court clerk a check), and some quarters (in case you unexpectedly need to make photocopies) also, bring cash to pay for parking.

How do you win a trial? ›

Tips for Success in the Courtroom
  1. Meet Your Deadlines. ...
  2. Choose a Judge or Jury Trial. ...
  3. Learn the Elements of Your Case. ...
  4. Make Sure Your Evidence Is Admissible. ...
  5. Prepare a Trial Notebook.
  6. Learn the Ropes.
  7. Watch Some Trials. ...
  8. Be Respectful.

At what stage do most lawsuits settle? ›

Most Civil Cases Settle Prior To Trial
  • Cases Settle When the Client Agrees that the Offer is Reasonable. ...
  • A Lawyer Cannot Guarantee a Favorable Outcome in a Litigated Personal Injury Claim. ...
  • Lawyers Try their Level Best in a Trial, but a Client Should have Realistic Expectations of Recovery in a Personal Injury Claim.

What percentage of civil lawsuits are settled? ›

According to a paper from the American Judges Association, as many as 97 percent of civil cases that are filed are resolved other than by a trial.

What is the most common punishment in a civil trial? ›

Civil penalties usually only include civil fines or other financial payments as a remedy for damages. An action seeking a civil penalty can be brought by the government, or by a private party in the shoes of the government.

What not to tell a judge? ›

Do Not Exaggerate, Mislead, or State Anything Untrue. It goes without saying that you should never lie to a judge (that is perjury), but you should also avoid exaggerating the facts or misleading the court about any issue. Most judges can sense when a witness is stretching the truth, and they do not appreciate it.

What not to say in front of a judge? ›

Never make a definitive statement

Always say "that is all I remember" instead of "That is everything, nothing else," as it leaves room for correction. You can get yourself in trouble this way and make it seem like you were hiding something in your original statement.

What not to say in court? ›

Don't lie.

Never, ever say anything you know to be untrue on the stand. Not only did you swear to tell the truth before you started testifying, but any lie you utter can haunt you if the other side figures it out. If they can prove you lied just once, everything you said during your testimony is suspect.

What percentage of cases end up reaching a settlement? ›

You may have heard about how many criminal cases are settled without a trial. It's true, more than 94% of criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain rather than going to trial.

Which person would be involved in a civil case? ›

The person who commences a civil lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person against whom the suit is brought is the defendant. In some cases, there may be more than one plaintiff or defendant.

What are the two sides in a civil case called? ›

parties - Plaintiffs and defendants (petitioners and respondents) to lawsuits, also known as appellants and appellees in appeals, and their lawyers. petit jury (or trial jury) - A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute.

What are the 4 steps to a trial? ›

The Trial
  1. Opening Statements. Every trial proceeds in basically the same way. ...
  2. Presenting the Prosecution/Plaintiff's Evidence. Opening statements are followed by the case-in-chief. ...
  3. Presenting the Defense's Evidence. ...
  4. Closing Arguments. ...
  5. The Jury's Verdict.

What are the 7 steps of a trial? ›

Criminal cases follow several important stages that defendants should understand.
  • Initiation of Charges. Prosecutors must filed formal charges in order to initiate a criminal case. ...
  • Arraignment. ...
  • Pre-Trial Hearings. ...
  • Pre-Trial Motions. ...
  • Readiness Hearings. ...
  • Trial. ...
  • Sentencing.

What is the most important step in a trial? ›

Which steps in the trial do you feel are most important or determinative of guilt or innocence? The obvious answer to this question is the jury deliberation stage.

What are the first 5 steps in a trial? ›

They five stages are as follows: the first appearance, the arraignment, motions, pre-trial conference and trial.


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