Posts Tagged ‘Answer’

An Explanation of the Civil Litigation Process

Every profession has it’s own unique procedures and lexicon. If I went to a plumbers’ convention, I’m sure I wouldn’t know half of what they were talking about.

I have to remind myself of this periodically, because during a conversation with a prospective client I’ll use basic legal terms like “summons.” “complaint” and “answer,” assuming the person knows what I am talking about, only to realize as the conversation progresses that they are not familiar with even those terms.  I communicate like crazy with my clients,  following the method tell them what you are going to say, tell them, and then tell them what you said.  Indeed, I can’t imagine a more communicative lawyer.  Yet even well into a case, I occasionally find that a client has a fundamental misunderstanding of the litigation process.

As an example, I once represented a sophisticated businessman from New York on a defamation claim. A newspaper here in California had published a defamatory statement about the client. The action proceeded nicely for the better part of a year, and the judge finally assigned a trial date. I immediately notified the client of the pending trial date, and told him to notify me immediately if the date presented any problem.

The client called and said he had no intention of attending the trial. “That’s why I hired an attorney,” he said.

I was fascinated by the remark, and asked the client just how that would work. He was claiming what the newspaper published about him was false. How, exactly, was I going to prevail on the case if he did not take the stand to explain why the statement was false, and how it had impacted him?

At first blush this appears ludicrous, but consider all that goes on during litigation that does not involve the client. There had been multiple motions during the litigation, and the client had not been required to attend any of those. In the client’s mind, a trial should be handled in the same way. I would simply go to court, establish that the newspaper had made the statement in question, and present the law on why that was defamatory. The client’s version of the facts could be presented by declaration. The client simply did not understand the rules of evidence, and how the opposition must be permitted to cross-examine any witnesses.

Thankfully, the matter settled before I ever had to face the conundrum created by the client. The newspaper caved, and we obtained an amazing settlement. Perhaps the newspaper’s representatives had refused to attend trial as well.

Bottom line: Don’t assume your client knows anything.

The following video is by a San Francisco attorney. He provides a very basic description of the litigation process from beginning to end.  The video is simple but very well done, and is a great resource if you are looking for a broad overview of the litigation process.

Aaron Morris, Attorney
Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP

Orchard Technology Park
11 Orchard Road, Suite 106
Lake Forest, CA 92630

(714) 954-0700

Email Aaron Morris
Information Helpful?
Buy me coffee
SLAPP Law Podcast

Click "Amazon Music" for all episodes of California SLAPP Law Podcast


NOTICE PURSUANT TO BUSINESS & PROFESSIONS CODE SECTION 6158.3: The outcome of any case will depend on the facts specific to that case. Nothing contained in any portion of this web site should be taken as a representation of how your particular case would be concluded, or even that a case with similar facts will have a similar result. The result of any case discussed herein was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

This site seeks to present legal issues in a hopefully entertaining manner. Hyperbolic language should not be taken literally. For example, if I refer to myself as the “Sultan of SLAPP” or the “Pharaoh of Free Speech,” it should not be assumed that I am actually a Sultan or a Pharaoh.

Factual summaries are entirely accurate in the sense of establishing the legal scenario, but are changed as necessary to protect the privacy of the clients.