Civil Trials and Appeals

The judicial system is essentially divided into two types of cases: civil and criminal. Thus, a study of CIVIL PROCEDURE is basically a study of the procedures that apply in cases that are not criminal.

Generally, criminal trials are used by the government to protect and provide relief to the general public by attempting to punish an individual. Civil trials can be used by anyone to enforce, redress, or protect their legal rights through court orders and monetary awards. The two types of trials are very different in character and thus have separate procedural rules and practices.

Procedural law is distinguished from SUBSTANTIVE LAW, which creates, defines, and regulates the rights and duties of individuals. Federal and state constitutions, statutes, and judicial decisions form the basis for substantive CIVIL LAW on matters such as contracts, TORTS,and probate. Procedural law prescribes the methods by which individuals may enforce substantive laws. The basic concern of procedural law is the fair, orderly, efficient, and predictable application of substantive laws. Procedural guidance can be found in court rules, in statutes, and in judicial decisions.

What is Civil Litigation?

Civil litigation is a legal dispute between two or more parties that seeks money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions. A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a ‘litigator’ or ‘trial lawyer.’ Lawyers who practice civil litigation represent parties in trials, hearings, arbitrations and mediations before administrative agencies, foreign tribunals and federal, state and local courts.

Types of Civil Litigation

Civil litigation encompasses a broad range of disputes. Civil litigators generally specialize in one or two specific practice areas. Several common types of civil litigation include:

  • Landlord/Tenant
  • Products Liability
  • Personal injury
  • Construction
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Employment & Labor
  • Real Estate
  • Anti-Trust
  • Intellectual Property
  • Environmental
  • Worker�s Compensation

The Role of the Litigation Professional

The role of the civil litigation professional is challenging and diverse. Since civil litigation is an adversarial process, litigation attorneys and paralegals must be willing to assume an oppositional position and embrace conflict and controversy. Civil litigation attorneys and paralegals often work long hours, especially during trial, and perform occasional travel.

Litigation Lifecycle

Civil litigation can be divided into seven stages: investigation, pleadings, discovery, pre-trial, trial, settlement and appeal. Not every lawsuit passes through each stage of litigation; most lawsuits are settled prior to trial and many cases that reach a trial verdict are not appealed.

The lifespan of a lawsuit can range from several months to several years. Complex civil litigation often takes years to pass from pre-suit investigation through trial/settlement.

Discovery is the longest and most labor-intensive stage of civil litigation. Contrary to the image portrayed by television, civil litigators spend little time in trial; most time is devoted to the discovery stage of litigation.

Litigation Skills

Certain skills and knowledge are essential to litigation practice. Key skills include:

  • Knowledge of substantive and procedural law
  • Strong written and oral advocacy skills
  • Analytical and logical reasoning abilities
  • Ability to synthesize complex legal and factual materials
  • Superior interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of legal research techniques and software
  • Client development skills
  • Negotiation skills

Unlike criminal prosecution, civil action is a lawsuit brought to court in order to receive damages or to recover a right. Civil litigation usually involves disputes of private law issues between individuals, businesses or non-profit organizations. At the same time, civil litigations can entail public law issues.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) describes processes of settling disputes by means other than litigation (taking a case to court). ADR includes mediation and arbitration processes. The American Arbitration Association is the organization which administers ADR processes.

The mediation process, for example, provides parties in a dispute an opportunity to settle informally with the assistance of a trained third party. And the arbitration process is a more formal method of settlement which includes a decision by the arbitrator.

Examples: Every form of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration, was used to settle the labor dispute without taking it to court.

Harper Law Firm has over 20 years of experience representing individual and business clients as both plaintiff and defendant in all Colorado district count courts. District court handles large money cases, and rules are very complicated. County courts handle cases involving $15,000.00 or less, and rules are less complicated, but it is still costly to handle county court civil cases. Cases normally involve less amounts of money, but it is still costly to handle these civil cases. County courts have more simplified rules of procedure.

Harper Law Firm regularly represents clients in Civil Litigation cases in many Colorado courts.

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