The judicial system of any nation is formed to ensure justice for its people. Courts and magistrates interpret the law in a proper manner and dispense justice and enable the truth to prevail. Attorneys (in some cases, known as lawyers or advocates) do the job of representing the people/parties involved in a court case. The representation is done on the basis of written down 'law of the land', and in a decorum which is known as a litigation. The process of litigation is basically a procedure, disciplined and executed within the time frame that is required to resolve a lawsuit.
The actual process may differ with respect to minor points, from judiciary to judiciary, but the basic steps always remain the same. For example, the litigation for discrimination or patent litigation also have the same basic litigation procedure elements, the governing acts and laws tend to differ.
What is Litigation
Just for the record, the common definition of litigation, goes as, 'a case, lawsuit, controversy, which is resolved by the contest of facts, interpretations and truth, under the authority of the law of the land, the Magistrate, within the court of law'. Thus, on the whole, the concept of litigation can be defined to be a procedure, executed with decorum, in a court to enforce a said law or right. In some cases, especially in a literary context, in nations where the constitutions confers certain rights and freedoms to the people, the legal proceedings against violation of these rights and freedoms is known as litigation. Parties involved in a litigation are known as litigators or litigation attorneys.
About the Litigation Process
The process of litigation consists of 5 prominent steps. These steps start when the case or lawsuit is actually filed. Now, in the following paragraphs, there are several terms whose definition and meaning has not been given.
1. Complaint and Answer
The process gets initiated when the complaint is filed in court, or comes to the court through some other system. For example, a criminal complaint will come to court after it has passed the crime and law enforcement agencies, or the IRS would file an income tax related case with the court as per decorum. Once the complaint has been filed, as a lawsuit by the plaintiff (accuser), the court of law serves (sends) a summons to the defendant (accused).
The details of the lawsuit are present on the summons documents. This document gives the defendant a time limit to file an answer, which depicts the defendants side of the case. Then, both parties can file what is known as a reply with the court. It basically, is a set of corrections, debates and inaccuracies that are challenged by either parties. This eventually leads to the conclusion and finalization of an 'issue' which is basically, the subject of the lawsuit and litigation. In some cases the lawsuit gets concluded at this point itself.
2. Pretrial Preparations
Pretrial involve the process of finding sufficient and truthful evidence, proof and clarification. The first step is always the research of the law which is based on the 'issue'. The attorneys think, deliberate and assess the legal implications of the issue. The technical aspects of the issue are also studied. Next off, the 'discovery' is made, this is the evidence gathering phase. Usually, a written evidence with witnesses or a court reporters presence does the job. Several witnesses are also questioned under oath. Audio and video depositions have also become quite common. The depositions can be obtained from any truthful witness and source, even the opposing party.
Law of any nature, and its related proceeding, is often so complex that there is a need for the court to rule and deliberate on interpretations, facts and even laws. This is done in order to provide the attorneys appropriate direction and also correct some technical errors and misinterpretation. This part of the litigation establishes certain principle facts of the case. In some cases, a certain discretion of some facts is established between the court and either parties. Based upon some facts and concluding motions, the 'issue' and resolution of the case may also change. Though short, this procedure is crucial.
The next step in litigation is the trial. Before the trial, a document known as a brief is provided by both the parties to the judge. The 'brief' contains all principle facts, references and outlines of the case that are being presented by either parties. After that it is full-scale war. The attorneys only need to stick to the procedure, decorum, issue, motions and the brief. Otherwise they are free to rationally present any fact, law or evidence, and also challenge the same when the opposition lawyer presents the same. The jury then gives a verdict and the judge gives a certain lawsuit settlement and a sentence.
The last part is the appeal by either parties, where the appellate court, or a higher court, reviews the case and observes all legal factions, facts and the numerous arguments of the case. This is done when any party feels that the verdict is unjust or disappointing. This procedure, in rare cases, may extend to another trial.
Settlement, arbitration and mediation are the three alternatives to a litigation. Here the parties agree upon some arrangement, without the trial or pretrial. Often this arrangement, which is usually monetary, is said to be an 'out of court settlement'. This is however, not the case as the court does monitor the settlement.