CIVIL LITIGATION ATTORNEYS IN FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA
Civil Litigation Lawyers in Northern AZ
The 928 Law Firm handles a wide variety of civil litigation disputes, from breach of contract cases to landlord-tenant disputes, to real property matters, to employer-employee disputes, and much more. Since civil lawsuits can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, we try first to resolve civil matters outside of court through demands and negotiations seeking fair settlements for our clients. If settlement is unachievable, our team will zealously advocate for you and your interests throughout the litigation process.
Benefits of a Civil Litigation Attorney
The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that people who represent themselves in Arizona courts are held "to the same standards as attorneys" and that "courts may not afford special leniency" to persons who represent themselves. Accordingly, representing yourself in a civil lawsuit comes with tremendous risks. Civil lawsuits in Arizona's superior courts are governed by the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure and the Arizona Rules of Evidence, which together contain over 100 pages of court rules; if you represent yourself in a civil lawsuit in Arizona, you are accepting the significant risk that you will overlook or misinterpret one or more of the many rules that govern your conduct in court and the way that you handle your case.
This means that you need a lawyer who understands the rules of procedure and who has civil litigation experience for you to have the best opportunity to win a civil lawsuit. If your civil lawsuit is worth your time, then it's also worth hiring The 928 Law Firm's knowledgeable and experienced legal team to have the best chance of a favorable case outcome.
Understanding Civil Litigation Cases
Stage 1: Filing suit, serving defendants, answering the complaint, and default judgment
A “plaintiff” is a party who files a lawsuit, and a “defendant” is a party against whom a lawsuit is filed. A lawsuit typically begins with a plaintiff filing a complaint and several other case-initiation documents with the court alleging how the defendant violated the law, and explaining what damages or other relief sought under the law. After filing the complaint, the plaintiff typically must serve each defendant with the complaint and a summons within 90 days. Once served, a defendant has a certain amount of time (usually 20 or 30 calendar days) to file an answer or other response to the complaint.
If a defendant fails to respond to the case after being served, the plaintiff can file papers asking the court for judgment by default against that defendant. After the plaintiff files the default papers and serves them on the defendant, the defendant will typically have another ten court days to respond to the lawsuit. If this defendant fails to respond within the additional ten-day period, the plaintiff may then ask the court for a default judgment against that defendant.
If a defendant does file answer or other response to the lawsuit before the end of the ten-day default period, the plaintiff cannot ask the court for default judgment against that defendant, and the case proceeds pursuant to the court rules and any court orders. Similarly, if the plaintiff seeks and is denied default judgment by the court, then the case will move forward. There is generally no consequence for a defendant filing after the initial 20- or 30-day deadline after being served as long as they file an answer or other response before the end of the additional ten-day period.
In some circumstances, default can be set aside if the defendant later appears and shows the court that the plaintiff failed to comply with the technical rules for filing the complaint and other documents, serving them, and completing the default process, or if there is other good cause for the court to set aside the default.
Stage 2: Disclosure, Discovery, Scheduling, Compulsory Arbitration, and Settlement Negotiations
The next stage varies somewhat depending on what set of court rules govern your case, but the general purpose of the next stage is for the parties to prepare for trial by exchanging documents and information that allow each other to prepare for trial. As with other types of lawsuits, the parties in civil litigation generally are not allowed to withhold documents or information from the other parties so that they are able to “ambush” or surprise the other parties with previously undisclosed information. Rather, the rules of court are written so that the parties are required to disclose all potentially-useful documents and information to the other parties early and often throughout the case; this process is known as “disclosure.” Additionally, if a party wants or needs documents or information that is relevant to the case but has not been disclosed to them voluntarily, then they can use “discovery” methods to force other parties (or even non-parties, such as banks and government institutions) to turn over documents. Examples of discovery methods include subpoenas, uniform interrogatories, non-uniform interrogatories, requests for admission, requests for production of documents, and depositions. The discovery process can be very lengthy and at a minimum will last 180 days per ARCP rule 26.2.
Around this time, the court may also conduct conferences (semi-formal court hearings) or issue orders to set deadlines for disclosure and discovery, or the court may require the parties to work together to determine a schedule and timeline for the case, and submit that proposal to the court so that it can become a binding court order.
Some cases are also subject to compulsory arbitration, which is an accelerated and simplified method for reaching a case outcome, usually within a few months of a case beginning. Although the outcome of compulsory arbitration is generally non-binding, many cases nonetheless end after arbitration because the losing party loses confidence in their case and decides to give up, or because the parties become highly motivated to resolve the case and agree to settlement.
Since lawsuits can become very expensive, the court rules are generally designed to encourage settlement discussions between the parties. The 928 Law Firm’s experienced lawyers are skilled at using the disclosure and discovery processes to strategically improve our clients’ positions so that the other parties are more likely to agree to a favorable settlement.
Stage 3: Pre-Trial Motions
At any time during a case, it may become attractive for a party to file a Motion to Dismiss, or a Motion for Summary Judgment, a Motion in Limine, or certain other pre-trial motions in an attempt to get a favorable ruling on certain facts, legal issues, claims, or even a total win on the entire case. The rules and law governing such motions are very complex, such that unrepresented parties are generally at a significant disadvantage against parties represented by lawyers.
Stage 4: Trial and Appeals
Most cases settle before trial. If the case does not settle, the case eventually goes to a trial. The trial may be a jury trial, or it may be a bench trial which means that a judge decides the case rather than a jury. At the end of the trial, the judge will issue a judgment, or the jury will issue a verdict. If a party does not like the outcome of the case, they may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court, which might overturn the ruling and could require the original court to conduct another trial.
Consult with The 928 Law Firm Now
While the information above is typically true, the court rules and applicable law give the judge and the parties significant flexibility to deviate from the process described above. For example, certain cases may require a judge’s permission before a party can make discovery requests, and there may be deadlines to submit certain pretrial motions. Additionally, while many lawyers file pre-trial motions mid-to-late in the case timeline, the court rules in some cases allow the parties to file such motions at the very beginning of the case.
Civil lawsuits are often complex and difficult to prove. The opposing party may even file a countersuit against you, which can muddy the waters even further. Whether you are looking to file a civil lawsuit or you are already in litigation, The 928 Law Firm can consult with you about your legal dispute. If you have a legal dispute that is ripe for litigation or already in court, schedule a consultation today by contacting The 928 Law Firm through the contact information below.