The Washington, D.C. Court System

  • Superior Court: This is the court of general jurisdiction in the District of Columbia. It can hear all local trial matters.
  • Court of Appeals: The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is the highest court of Washington D.C. The Court of Appeals is the equivalent of a state supreme court, and is authorized to review all final orders and judgments from the Superior Court.

*Some of the above courts in the Washington, D.C. of Columbia Court System also have jurisdiction over certain criminal proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

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.

Discover

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

All cases ordered to participate in mediation or other neutral case evaluation must appear at the scheduled conference set by the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division.

  • Mediation is a flexible, non-binding process in which a neutral third party assists each side in negotiating in order to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediators do not make decisions for parties, but instead help each side realize and explain their needs, clarify misunderstandings, and identify issues while exploring solutions.
  • Neutral Case Evaluation is a process in which a neutral evaluator will help the parties identify the issues, and provide a non-binding opinion of the settlement value of the case. Once the parties have the evaluation, including the likelihood of liability and range of damages, they will be encouraged to continue settlement negotiations.

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 Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

DISCLAIMER:

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 Washington DC. Should you have a question/concern specific to Washington DC law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Washington DC.