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Quote of the Day Facts are ventriloquists dummies. Sitting on a wise mans knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom; elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense or indulge in sheer diabolism. Aldus Huxley, British Author
There is only one good kind of legal dispute -- The one that is prevented! You have a chance to go broke twice in your life; once when you lose a lawsuit, the other time, when you win.
Litigation vs. Alternative Dispute Resolution Litigation refers to lawsuits; the process of filing claims in court, and ultimately going to trial. Alternative Dispute Resolution is any other formal or informal process for settling disputes without going to trial.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (most common forms) Negotiation Parties make offers and counter-offers for settlements. May be face-to-face or through lawyers. Mediation Neutral person (mediator) attempts to get parties to reach a voluntary settlement. Mediation may be ordered by a judge. Mediator does not render a decision. Arbitration Neutral person (arbitrator) is involved. Arbitrator does render a binding decision. Arbitration may be mandatory, if chosen in advance as the method for dispute resolution.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (less common forms) Mini-trial Parties stage a short trial to a panel of three judges. Two of the judges are executives of the disputing corporations; the third is a neutral party. Lawyers present shortened cases; judges discuss settlement. Summary Jury Trial Initiated and supervised by a court. Each side summarizes to a mock jury what witnesses would say if called before a real jury. Jury deliberates and tries to reach consensus, but may vote individually if necessary. Allows each side to see how a trial might turn out. Click here to search the internet for Alternative Dispute Resolution
State Court System Trial Courts of General Jurisdiction Trial Courts of Limited (or Specific) Jurisdiction State Supreme Court (Highest Appeals Court) Lower Appeals Courts General Civil Division General Criminal Division Small Claims Division Municipal Division Juvenile Division Probate Division Land Division Domestic Relations Division One judge; may have jury Three judges; never a jury Usually 7 Justices; may refuse to hear a case; final authority Click on any box below for a definition of the jurisdiction of that trial court.
Federal Courts -- Two kinds of civil lawsuits permitted Federal Question Cases A claim based on the United States Constitution, a federal statute, or a federal treaty Diversity Cases When the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of two different states, AND the amount in dispute is greater than $50,000 Click for an internet intro to past or present Supreme Court Justices
The Federal Court System Primary Trial Court Trial Courts of Limited (Specific) Jurisdiction United States Supreme Court ( Highest Appeals Court ) Lower Appeals Courts U.S. District Courts U.S. Bankruptcy Courts U.S. Tax Courts Various Federal Agencies U.S. Court of International Trade U.S. Claims Court U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Trial Courts of Limited (Specific) Jurisdiction Three judges hear each case, brought up from the District Courts. Nine Justices; appointed for life; may refuse to hear a case; final authority Click on any box below for a definition of the jurisdiction of that trial court. U.S. Courts of Appeals (12 Circuits) U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Hears appeals from specialized trial courts. * Click here to see a map of the 12 Circuits of the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
Steps in Beginning Litigation Pleadings: Papers that begin a lawsuit 1. Complaint -- Short, plain statement of the allegations and the legal claims. This is served or delivered with a summons. 2. Answer -- A brief reply to the allegations. 3. Counter-Claim -- Sometimes the accused party will initiate a second suit in response to the first. 4. Reply -- A brief reply to the counter-claim.
Possible Variations on Pleadings Counter-claim If the accused party thinks the accusing party has contributed to the problem or has wronged them, they may file a second suit, in reverse of the first. Class Actions If the plaintiff has evidence that the wrong in question has affected a large number of unrelated persons, the suit may become a class-action suit, with the plaintiff representing an entire class of plaintiffs. Judgment on the Pleadings Either party can ask the court for a judgment based on the initial complaint and answer, but few cases are dismissed at this point.
Discovery -- next step after pleadings Interrogatories -- written questions that the other party must answer, under oath Depositions -- interview (under oath) of other party or potential witnesses; done by opposing lawyer Production of Evidence -- each side may request to see the other sides evidence Requests for Admission -- each side may request that undisputed facts be admitted or denied, to avoid wasting time on them Discovery allows both sides to uncover evidence, encouraging a settlement without trial or ensuring few surprises during a trial.
Other Steps Before Trial Summary Judgment -- a ruling by the court that no trial is necessary because there are no essential facts in dispute; may be requested by either side. Final Preparation -- if the case is to proceed to trial, both sides make a list of witnesses and rehearse questions with their own witnesses. Preparation is allowed, but telling the witnesses how to answer is not legal or ethical.
Beginning a Trial Jury Selection: Process called voir dire 1. Questioning -- Each potential juror is questioned, to uncover biases. If both sides agree, they may waive their right to a jury. 2. Challenges for Cause -- Each side can claim any juror shows significant bias. 3. Peremptory Challenges -- Each lawyer can dismiss a limited number of jurors without stating a reason. 4. Jury Chosen jurors and 2 alternates
Procedural Rules for a Trial Burden of Proof The plaintiff must convince the jury that its version of the case is correct. In a civil case, the proof needs to be by a preponderance of evidence (meaning at least slightly more likely to be true). In a criminal case, the proof required is higher; it must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Rules of Evidence Lawyers are allowed to ask only questions that are relevant to the case.
The Plaintiffs Case First, Opening Arguments This is a brief summary, given by each side, of the facts they hope to demonstrate. Plaintiff Calls Witnesses Questions to own witnesses is direct examination. Lawyer only asks questions with helpful answers. Defendant Questions Witnesses Questions to opposing witnesses is cross examination. Again, lawyer asks questions with helpful answers. Defendant Moves for Directed Verdict This is asking the judge to decide that the plaintiff has no case worth proceeding with.
The Defendants Case Opening Arguments Defendants opening arguments were presented earlier, before the plaintiff presented its case. Defendant Calls Witnesses Questions to own witnesses is direct examination. Lawyer only asks questions with helpful answers. Plaintiff Questions Witnesses Questions to opposing witnesses is cross examination. Again, lawyer asks questions with helpful answers. Closing Arguments Brief summary, by both sides, urging the jury to believe their side of the case.
Jury Instructions The judge instructs the jury to evaluate the case solely on the facts of the evidence presented. If the case is influenced by a certain legal presumption, the judge will summarize that for the jury. Deliberation and Verdict The jury discusses the case for as long as needed (anywhere from less than an hour to several weeks). Sometimes the jury must be unanimous; other times only a majority (at least 7) or a 10-2 vote is required. After Both Sides Rest (Finish)
Motions after the Verdict The loser might request a judgment n.o.v., asking the judge to overturn the verdict on a legal technicality or on a claim that the jury ignored the evidence. If the judgment n.o.v. is denied, the losing side may request a new trial, on the same claims. Appeal The recourse for the loser is to file an appeal, a request for a higher court to examine the facts. The appeals court may affirm the verdict, modify the award, reverse and remand (send it back to trial) or simply reverse (overturn) the lower courts verdict. Settlement At any point, either side may offer to settle the case, even between the verdict and the beginning of an appeal. The Trial is Over… or is it?
The process of litigation, with its potential for errors or biases, may influence the outcome of a dispute as strongly as the law itself. That is all the more reason to prevent disputes if possible, or to use alternative methods of dispute resolution.
General Civil Division Trial Courts May hear virtually any civil lawsuit. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
General Criminal Division Trial Courts May hear virtually any criminal lawsuit. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Small Claims Division Trial Court Hears only civil suits under a minimum dollar value amount (such as $2,500). Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Municipal Division Trial Court Hears traffic cases and minor criminal suits. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Juvenile Division Trial Court Hears only cases involving minors. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Probate Division Trial Court Settles estates of deceased persons. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Land Division Trial Court Hears land and real property disputes. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Domestic Relations Division Trial Court Handles marital and child custody issues. Go back to State Court System slide. Go to previous definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
U.S. District Trial Court Primary trial courts in the federal system; the nation is divided into 96 districts (based on population), with one court per district. Go back to Federal Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Bankruptcy Court Tax Court Court of International Trade Patent and Trademark Court These trial courts in the federal system hear cases appropriate to their names (tax cases in the tax court, etc.) Appeals from the Bankruptcy and Tax Courts are heard by the Court of Appeals in the appropriate circuit. Appeals from the Court of International Trade and the Patent & Trademark Court are heard by the Court of Appeals in the Federal Circuit. Go back to Federal Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Various Federal Agencies Though not actually a part of the Judicial Branch of the Federal government, many Federal agencies have the power to create and enforce appropriate regulations. Go back to Federal Court System slide. Go to next definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
U.S. Claims Court Hears cases brought against the United States, typically on contract disputes. Go back to Federal Court System slide. Go to previous definition. Skip rest of definitions; go back to slide show.
Circuits in the Federal Court System Go back to Federal Court System slide. Go back to slide show. Puerto Rico is part of Circuit 1 Virgin Islands are part of Circuit 3 Northern Marianna Islands are part of Circuit 9 (along with Alaska and Hawaii.) D.C. Circuit Washington, D.C. Federal Circuit Washington, D.C. Source: Administrative Office of the United States Courts, January
Link to the Internet Clicking on the orange button below will link you the website for this book. (You must first have an active link to the internet on this computer.) Once there, click: Online Study Guide, then Your choice of a chapter, then Practice, then Internet Applications. You should then see web links related to that chapter. Click above to return to the slide show. Click Here!