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Pretrial Procedures in California Civil Litigation

Pretrial procedures are implemented to bring a lawsuit to a close or resolve it without going to trial. These procedures comprise different events such as conferences, case evaluations, and settlements. In this blog post, we will discuss the pretrial procedures involved in California civil litigation and explain the potential impact of each on your case.

The Discovery Process

In civil lawsuits, the discovery process refers to the information gathering that takes place before trial. This is a formal process where parties exchange information about witnesses and evidence to be presented at trial. The purpose of discovery is to prevent “trial by ambush,” where one side is caught off guard because they were unaware of the other side’s evidence or witnesses until the trial. This process ensures both sides have enough time to obtain evidence to support their claims and respond to the other side’s evidence.

Some of the main kinds of discovery include:

  • Interrogatories
  • Depositions
  • Requests for admissions
  • Requests for production of documents
  • Subpoenas

Pre-Trial Motions

Pre-trial motions refer to legal procedures employed by one or more parties involved in a case to resolve specific legal issues prior to a trial. These motions are formal requests to the court to determine certain legal matters. Essentially, pretrial motions are legal maneuvers that aim to refine the scope of the trial and can often have a notable impact on the direction or even the necessity of a trial.

Some of the more common pre-trial motions include:

  • A demurrer to the pleadings
  • Motion to strike pleadings
  • Motion to quash summons
  • Motion to continue the trial
  • Motion to compel discovery
  • Motion for summary judgment

Pretrial motions are typically submitted after the initial pleadings, i.e., the complaint and answer, but before the trial commences. However, the timing of such motions may differ depending on the rules of the jurisdiction and the nature of the motion itself. Some motions, such as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, must be filed at the beginning of the case. On the other hand, a motion for summary judgment is generally filed after the discovery phase. 


At a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC), the judge meets with the case participants or their attorneys to discuss the disputed issues and try to resolve the case without going to trial. During this conference, the parties will present the facts of the case, and the judge will try to come up with a solution that everyone agrees to in order to settle the case. If the parties can reach a resolution during the conference, there will be no trial. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the judge will determine whether another Mandatory Settlement Conference is needed or set the matter for a Trial Readiness Conference (TRC).

Contact Herrera Clifton Hess Today To Learn More

If you need more information about pre-trial procedures or have questions about your case, contact Herrera Clifton Hess today and learn how our experienced civil litigation attorneys can help.