The National Trial Lawyers
Expertise 2020
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What Happens at a Pre-trial Conference?

A pretrial conference is a meeting your attorney has with the judge and what’s going to be discussed is the status of your case.

Really, three things are going to be talked about and only three things at a pretrial. And that is: “Judge, the case is ready to be set for trial, please give us a date when we can pick a jury.”

Number 2: “Judge, the case is resolved, we’re going to be entering a plea, please give us a plea date.”

What Happens at a Pretrial Conference?Or, 3: “Judge, we need more time, the State hasn’t turned over some evidence. Or, the depositions are not complete. So, give us more time, set us another pretrial three months from now, two months from now, and maybe we’ll have everything done by the next pretrial.” That’s what we call a “continuance”.

So, continuance, plea, or trial. Those are the three words that are supposed to come out of your attorney’s mouth at a pretrial conference. That’s all the judge really wants to hear. Though, you’ll hear a lot more talk at these conferences. That’s the essence of what’s being said.

There’s one famous judge that I’ve been in front of and pretrials went rather quick. He had a poster in the courtroom warning attorneys who had never been in front of him before “Look, when you reach that podium, at pretrial, you get to say three things and three things only. Here are the three words that I want to hear out of your mouth: trial, plea, continuance.” And that was all we would get to say. If we started rambling or what have you, this judge would reign us in, point to the poster, and say “Would you please follow my rules?”

That’s all that happens at a pretrial. We’re giving the judge an update.

You should know that most judges don’t like clients to be at pretrial. I’d say a vast majority of the judges out there will actually shut their doors and it will be an attorney’s only pretrial. That means that there’s really no point to you showing up with your attorney at a pretrial unless your attorney asks you to. And, you want to review this with your attorney. I usually file a “waiver” of my client’s pretrial appearance. It’s just pointless to have more people there. It is long, it is boring. And, only three things need to be said but there’s just some attorneys in the bunch that get a little wordy. And, rather than just saying “trial / plea / continuance”–those are the three things you say at pretrial–they like to talk about other things and it takes forever.

So, talk to your attorney about whether you need to be at the pretrial. My guess is that you don’t need to be at pretrial.

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