The Alaska State Court System
- District Court: The District Court is a trial court with jurisdiction over civil cases with a value up to $100,000 per defendant. The District Court also hears Small Claims cases which typically have a $10,000 maximum value. If the District Court and Superior Court have concurrent jurisdiction, the case must be filed in District Court, except where an exception is provided.
- Superior Court: The Superior Court the court of general jurisdiction in Alaska and has the ability to hear all civil cases. The Superior Court serves as the appellate court for civil cases tried in the District Court.
- Alaska Supreme Court: The Supreme Court must hear appeals in civil cases from the Superior Court. It also has discretionary power to hear Petitions for Hearing, Petitions for Review, and other matters.
In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 20 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.
After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:
- Written Discovery is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:
- Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
- Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
- Depositions – In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Before the lawsuit goes to trial, the parties may elect to schedule a mediation to attempt to resolve the matter.
Alaska Rule of Conduct 26(f) requires attorneys to discuss alternatives dispute resolution (ADR) with opposing counsel and to create an ADR plan for most civil cases filed in state court. Alaska recognizes various types of ADR including arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation and settlement conferences.
- Arbitration is a private, adversarial process in which the disputing parties choose a neutral party to hear evidence and legal arguments and to render a decision. The decision can be binding or non-binding depending upon the agreement between the parties.
- Mediation is a flexible, non-binding process in which a neutral third party assists parties in conflict negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediators do not make decisions for the parties, but instead help parties realize and explain their needs, clarify misunderstandings, and identify issues while exploring solutions.
- Early Neutral Evaluation is a process in which a neutral party assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each side and provides assistance in coming to an acceptable resolution.
- Settlement Conference is a meeting between opposing sides of a lawsuit during which parties attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute without proceeding to trial.
If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.
Motions and Appeals
After the jury returns their verdict, the parties may file post trial motions and/or appeal the verdict to the appropriate appellate court in Alaska.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Alaska. Should you have a question/concern specific to Alaska law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Alaska.