What are pre-trial pleadings?

Criminal Defense Lawyer

When a lawsuit is filed, the Court will set the case for a trial. At this point, an Arlington, TX criminal defense lawyer will file a scheduling order with the Court to set up some dates and keep the trial organized and moving. On the scheduling order, generally, the Court will schedule a date by which the parties have to file their pretrial pleadings. Following are the types of pre-trial pleadings most commonly seen in litigation cases:

  1. Witness List: Prior to showing up to trial, both parties have to exchange a witness list to inform the other of the witnesses they intend on calling at trial. Generally, these witnesses include the parties, their representatives, any lay witnesses, experts, and individuals involved during trial. Of course, any individuals not previously disclosed in discovery are not allowed to testify at trial of the matter. Each party gets a chance object to the other party’s witness list.
  2. Exhibit List: An exhibit list generally comprises of the documents or demonstrative aids each party intends on admitting at the time of trial. Each document is individually numbered and submitted to the opposing side for review. Once received, the other side gets an opportunity to object to the documents on the exhibit list. Any document not previously served during discovery is off limits and may not be introduced at the time of trial without just cause.
  3. Deposition Designation: During the oral discovery phase, a party deposes a witness, opposing party, or an expert. This testimony is transcribed by a court reporter, later provided to each side to purchase. This deposition testimony can be used at trial as evidence, and testimony. All, some, or none of the testimony can be designated at trial. The opposing party has the option to object to the testimony designated. The Court generally rules on any disagreement on whether all, some, or none of the testimony should be entered at the time of trial and to the jury.
  4. Motions in Limine: Motions in limine are filed prior to presentation of evidence at trial. These motions address issues on admissibility of certain evidence that could be prejudicial. When a judge rules on either party’s motions, he/she generally makes it clear that the rules apply unilaterally. If a door is opened during trial on an issue addressed via motion in limine, the other side may be able to ask questions about it.
  5. Jury Charge: The Court has the responsibility of preparing a jury charge to read to the jury. The jurors are advised on the law, as well as damages they are to account for. The jury charge addresses these issues. The jury charge is printed and provided to the jury for deliberation purposes. Typically, the attorneys for both sides will submit a jury charge to the Court with information each want in the final jury charge. The judge will determine the information to put in a jury after presentation of all evidence in the case.
  6. Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony: This motion is also known as Daubert motion. Daubert motion addresses the issue of admissibility of expert testimony at trial. The trial court acts as a gatekeeper for expert testimony presented at trial. If the expert testimony is unreliable, not relevant, or its more prejudicial than its probative value, the trial court will not allow expert testimony into evidence. Reliability of an expert is measured through qualifications, specialized knowledge, or skill set of an expert. Bias is also taken into consideration when reviewing expert testimony.
  7. Other issues needing discussion: Sometimes one or both parties chose to file trial briefs, motions to strike arguments and pleadings with the Court for review. The trial court is required to address all pretrial issues prior to starting a jury trial.

A pretrial hearing defines the scope of the trial. It gives all parties and their attorneys an idea of what will be allowed at trial, and what will be excluded. It sets the tone for a jury trial. A pretrial helps keep the parties, the attorneys, and the Court organized and ready for trial.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into pleadings and criminal defense.