Civil LitigationCIVIL COURT

November 14, 20190

Litigators appear in civil court to represent their clients in a civil matter. An individual can also represent themselves in this venue, but an attorney must represent any corporate entity. Groups of individuals can also comprise a plaintiff or defendant, too.

Pleadings and Discovery

If an attorney files a complaint on behalf of her plaintiff client, the defendant or his attorney must then file an answer. These two documents, the complaint and the answer, are the first steps taken in a civil matter. In Rhode Island, the courts require electronic filing of these documents. As a result, lawyers in this state must be familiar with the computer system that the state uses.

A litigator’s first appearance in civil court is often to deal with a discovery dispute. That’s because discovery is the second step following the complaint and answer. Judges are familiar with discovery disputes – there is usually an entire day reserved by the courts to deal with these disputes! New attorneys handle the majority of a practice’s discovery issues with opposing counsel because it’s an excellent learning opportunity about the civil process.

Court Jurisdiction

Depending on the nature of a claim and the amount in controversy, there are a few options for venue. State civil courts and federal courts are a good example. These courts are completely different and are located in two separate buildings. They also have separate sets of procedure. Part of an attorney’s job is to determine which court the case belongs in.

Lack of subject matter jurisdiction can be a basis for case dismissal. Each civil court has its own jurisdiction. So, an attorney must file the plaintiff’s complaint in the appropriate venue. Otherwise, a case can be dismissed right away. Dismissal is an expensive and time-consuming process. It is very important that an attorney file her client’s claims properly.

As the name suggests, civil court does not hear matters of a criminal law nature. Civil matters include claims sounding in tort, contract, and real property, among others. These matters can be heard and decided by a jury. Or, a jury trial can be waived so that only the judge hears and decides the matter.


Civil court decisions usually carry a right of appeal, too. Any party that is aggrieved by the decision files that appeal to a higher court. Appellate process is different than the trial process. The higher court reviews only the evidence and issues that were successfully introduced at the trial level. This idea is referred to as a “review of the record below.” As a result, it’s imperative that the attorneys introduce all of the evidence and arguments they need at the trial stage. These rules, and others like it, were developed through case law, and the courts have rules of civil procedure. Between these two sources, there are various necessary steps in the civil process.

The attorneys at Desautel Browning Law have decades of experience with civil court. They represent clients regularly throughout all courts in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Call us today to find out how we can help you: 401.477.0023

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