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The Purposes & Matters For Consideration In Pre-Trial Conferences In Civil Cases Under The Federal Rules Of Procedure

In civil matters, such as cases of personal injury, many plaintiffs enter the process thinking that the case will conclude with a trial. Benson E. Legg, a former Judge for the U.S. District Court of Maryland, explained in a Daily Record article that well over 90% of civil suits do not make it to trial, as the majority are settled or dismissed. One key phase of a civil case is the pre-trial, which we will outline according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). A pre-trial provides an excellent opportunity for progress, because it is a formal meeting where all the parties involved will generally be present.

Purposes of Pre-Trial Conference

Courts may order that parties appear for pre-trial conference(s) in to achieve any of the following:

  • To advance dispositioning of the claim
  • For the purpose of initiating control and establishing an efficient framework for managing the action
  • To avoid and discourage activities that may be wasteful
  • For maximizing a trial’s quality through preparation
  • To promote a potential settlement

Establishment of a Schedule

A judge may make a scheduling order upon receipt of reports under Rule 26(f) or following a scheduling conference. The scheduling order should be issued as soon a practically possible, unless a delay is warranted, within 90 days of service or 60 days after appearance. The order must contain time limits for joining parties, completing pleading, discovery and motions. In addition, the schedule order may contain:

  • Modifications concerned the extent of discovery
  • The handling of electronically stored data
  • Agreements concerning trial preparation material or those associated with rules of evidence
  • Discovery process directions
  • The projected dates (schedule) for events

Potential Matters for Consideration

  • Issues concerning frivolous claims
  • Amendment of pleadings
  • Rules regarding the admissibility of evidence, supportive documentation, and avoiding proof that is not necessary
  • Procedures and timing for summary judgments based on Rule 56
  • How discovery and disclosures will be controlled and scheduled (Rule 26; Rules 29-37)
  • Issues concerned with filing and exchanging testimony, witnesses and files relating to pretrial briefs
  • Handling and disposal of any pending motions
  • Actions associated with multiple parties
  • Orders for a separate trial associated with Rule 42(b) such as counterclaims and claims of third-parties
  • Orders for the presentation of evidence such as time limits for presentation

In the current judicial environment, courts place a tremendous amount of emphasis on managing these actions in an efficient manner. This is commonly critical based on the volume of actions that the court is tasked with handling. In addition, courts face increasing tight budgetary restraints and other resources that have limitations; therefore, judges will clearly stress the importance of minimizing unnecessary costs. The courts have the ability to modify schedules with good cause. Courts may designate a final pre-trial conference where all parties appear that (to some extent) may encourage resolution before the trial in efforts to achieve “speedy and inexpensive” outcomes.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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