issues, the evidence relied upon, the legal authority for the motion, and must have an
attached copy of the proposed order. You must file the motion with the court clerk,
together with a document, called a "Note for Motion Docket," which must contain the
date and time that you request the court to decide the motion. LR 7 requires that you file
most civil motions with the court and arrange for delivery to the opposing party at least
days (that is, not counting weekends, holidays, and not counting the date of
service, but counting the date of the hearing
) before the date of the hearing.
Generally, the King County Superior Court will hear civil motions without
argument, except for Summary Judgment motions, Family Law motions, Ex Parte
motions, and dispositive motions. A "dispositive" motion is a motion, which ends all or a
substantial part of the case in favor of one party. For a civil motion without oral
argument, you do not need to telephone the courtroom staff of your trial judge to select a
date for the oral argument. If you want oral argument for a civil motion, you must
request it on the Note for Motion Docket and you must call the courtroom staff of the
trial judge ahead of time to request a time for the oral argument on the civil motion. You
may find the telephone number of your trial judge in the blue-edged government pages of
the telephone book under "King County." If you are responding to a civil motion by the
opposing party, you must file and deliver your response no later than noon two court days
before the civil motion is to be heard. If you wish to reply to the response to a civil
motion, you must file and deliver your reply no later than noon one day before the civil
motion is to be heard. Summary Judgment motions and Family Law motions have
different time periods, which you may find in LR 56 and LFLR 6.
In most cases, you must file the original Note for Motion Docket and civil motion
and any attached documents with the Clerk of Court, deliver one working copy of each
document to the trial judge's courtroom staff or the judge's mailbox at the King County
Courthouse or the Regional Justice Center, and deliver one copy to the opposing party or
the attorney for the opposing party, if he or she has an attorney. The Clerk of Court will
place the original in the court file and the trial judge's courtroom staff will give the
working copy to the trial judge to read before the hearing date. The working copy for the
judge should have the judge's name, the date, and the time of the hearing in the upper
right hand corner of the first page of the document in red ink
. The motion and note for
motion docket should have your name, mailing address, and telephone number in the
lower right hand corner of the first
page. The same is true of any document that you file
with the court.
Under Civil Rule 56 of the Washington Court Rules
, a party must provide 28
calendar days advance notice of a Motion for Summary Judgment. The opposing party
must respond in writing to the Court and to the moving party at least 11 calendar days
before the hearing. Since a Motion for Summary Judgment may dispose of the case, the
trial court will want to hear oral argument. So, you must call the courtroom staff of the
trial judge to select a date for oral argument. For a Motion for Summary Judgment, you
must file the original Note for Motion Docket and motion and any attached documents
with the Clerk of Court and deliver one copy to the trial judge's courtroom staff or the
judge's mailbox at the King County Courthouse or the Regional Justice Center. The
Clerk of Court will place the original in the court file and the trial judge's courtroom staff
will give the copy to the trial judge to read before the hearing date.
Under King County Local Family Law Rule 6, a party must provide 14 calendar
days notice of a family law motion before a court commissioner. The opposing party
must respond in writing to the court and to the moving party by noon at least four court
days before the hearing. For a Family Law Motion before a court commissioner, the
moving party must confirm the motion with the Family Law Motions Coordinator
between 2:30 p.m. three court days before the hearing and noon two court days before the
court hearing; otherwise, the motion will be stricken from the calendar and the judge will
not hear the motion. You will have to note it again for a different time if you still want it
to be heard. For other motions, King County Local Rule 7 does not require confirmation,
but the parties must notify the court in the event that the parties agree to cancel the
motion. If the local court rules require that family law motions be confirmed and you fail
to confirm your motion, the court clerk will strike the motion from the court's calendar
and your motion will not be heard
. For a family law motion, you must file the original
Note for Motion Docket and motion and any attached documents with the Clerk of Court
and deliver one copy to Family Law Motions Coordinator in Room W292 of the King
County Courthouse or Room 1222 in the Regional Justice Center in Kent. The Clerk of
Court will place the original in the court file and the family law coordinator's staff will
give the copy to the family law court commissioner to read before the hearing date.
For motions for which the court allows oral argument, you should be sure to show
up early for the hearing and tell the courtroom staff that you are there. Then, listen for
your case to be called by the judicial assistant or bailiff. If the party making the motion
fails to show up at the time of the hearing, the court will strike the motion from the
court's calendar and the moving party will have to note the hearing again. If the party
opposing the motion fails to show up, the court will not strike the motion, but the court
will not automatically grant the motion; instead, the judge will decide what action is
For motions for which the court does not allow oral argument (speaking), you do
not need to appear in court on the date of the hearing. King County Local Rule 7
provides for all nondispositive motions and motions for default to be decided without oral
argument, with a number of exceptions. Nondispositive motions are that do not end a
case. However, you may request that the trial judge hear oral argument on a
nondispositive motion and the trial judge may grant your request. The exceptions include
Summary Judgment motions, Family Law motions, and Ex Parte motions. To request oral
argument for a nondispositive motion, you must make the request on the Note for Motion
Docket and telephone the trial judge's courtroom staff to request a special time for the
Under LR 7, the moving party in a civil motion has the responsibility to include a
proposed order for the judge to sign in the civil motion. The responding party has the
opportunity to submit a proposed order for the judge to sign in his or her response to the
civil motion. The judge will choose the most applicable order, modify it as necessary,
then ask the courtroom staff to file the order and send a copy to each party in stamped
envelopes provided by the moving party.
2.1.5 Settlement Conferences
The local court rules provide a means for having a judge conduct a settlement
conference involving all the parties to a dispute. Under LR 16(c), the parties may agree
on a settlement conference or the individual calendar (trial) judge may order the parties to
participate in a settlement conference. Except for cases involving domestic violence, the
trial judge is likely to require all parties to participate in a settlement conference. The
settlement judge or mediator cannot be the individual calendar (trial) judge and the
settlement judge or mediator must not discuss the negotiations with the individual
calendar (trial) judge. You must prepare a settlement letter or legal pleading to set forth
your position on the issues, such as liability, causation, and damages in a personal injury
case, and deliver the letter to the settlement judge or mediator and the opposing party
ahead of time. For family law settlement conferences, your settlement letter or legal
pleading must include a financial declaration and you must submit it to the settlement
judge or mediator and to the opposing party two days in advance of the settlement
conference. Generally, you must attend the settlement conference, unless excused by the
settlement judge or mediator for an exceptional, compelling reason. If you fail to attend
or to provide the settlement letter or pleading, the settlement judge or mediator may
impose sanctions, such as a fine. The settlement judge or mediator may make a
recommendation about how the case should be settled and may encourage the parties to
actively participate in the negotiations. Settlement conferences provide an effective
means of resolving legal disputes before trial.
2.2 Mandatory Arbitration
State law permits the Superior Court of each county to adopt a procedure whereby
civil lawsuits involving claims for money of no more than $50,000 (and no other claims)
are subject to mandatory arbitration. In addition, when for purposes of arbitration only
all parties waive claims in excess of $50,000.00, exclusive of attorney's fees, interest, and
costs, or the parties stipulate to arbitration, the case will be referred to mandatory
Under this "mandatory arbitration" procedure, each party presents its evidence to
the arbitrator in an informal hearing. The arbitrator is an attorney, who acts as the
decision-maker. The arbitration hearing usually takes place in the arbitrator's law office.
Arbitration often takes less time than a trial by judge or jury. King County has adopted
local rules for mandatory arbitration (LMAR). Those rules state that the purpose of
mandatory arbitration is to provide a simplified and economical procedure for obtaining
the prompt and equitable resolution of disputes involving claims subject to arbitration by
state law. One of the advantages of mandatory arbitration is that the cases move more
quickly to an arbitration hearing than they do to trial by judge or jury.
The case schedule (discussed in section 2.1.2) sets a date for the filing of a
Confirmation of Joinder, but where a party believes the case to be proper for mandatory
arbitration, a Statement of Arbitrability in the form prescribed by the court should be
filed instead of the Confirmation of Joinder. LMAR 2.1(a). Any other party has 14 days
to object to the Statement of Arbitrability, or the case will be deemed to be arbitrable.
Thereafter, the Arbitration Department will send the parties a list of possible arbitrators.
In a typical case with one plaintiff and one defendant, the list will have five names and
each side may strike two names and indicate a preference for two other names. The
Arbitration Department notifies the parties of the name of the designated arbitrator, who
will then schedule the hearing.
Once the Arbitration Department assigns a case to an arbitrator, the Mandatory
Arbitration Rules (MAR) limit the amount of discovery (discovery is discussed in Section
2.1.3). The limitations are set out in MAR 4.2 and LMAR 4.2. These rules explain what
information you must provide to the arbitrator in the Prehearing Statement of Proof. The
Prehearing Statement of Proof informs the arbitrator of your evidence and view of the
case. MAR 5.3 and LMAR 5.3 set forth the procedure for conducting of the hearing.
The arbitrator should place witnesses under oath before testifying. While the arbitration
hearing is more informal than a courtroom trial, the rules of evidence apply, subject to the
arbitrator's discretion. The arbitrator should begin the hearing with an explanation of the
manner in which he or she will conduct the hearing. The arbitrator's award must be
written, then filed with the Court no later than 14 days after the conclusion of the
Any party dissatisfied with the arbitrator's decision can appeal the result by
requesting a trial. The judge or the jury hearing the trial will not consider or know the
decision of the arbitrator. The appeal is known as a request for "trial de novo." The time
limits for requesting a trial de novo may be found in MAR and LMAR 7.1 through 7.3.
You must strictly comply with the requirement to file the request for trail de novo and
serve the document on the opposing party within 20 days of the date of filing of the
arbitration decision with the Clerk of Court, or you will loose your right to a trial. If one
party requests a trial de novo, the clerk will assign an accelerated trial date to the case and
send out an Amended Case Schedule. A party who appeals a decision of an arbitrator,
but fails to improve his or her position at the trial de novo, will be assessed costs and
reasonable attorney's fees incurred after the filing of the request for trial de novo. The
intent of this rule is to encourage the parties to accept the decision of the arbitrator.
2.3.1 An Overview
In order to find out how trials are handled in a particular court, it is essential that
you read and become familiar with all the applicable court rules (see section 1.5.1).
Most courts require each party to prepare a written document called a "trial brief,"
which should clearly and briefly state the facts that the party intends to prove and the
legal arguments that support the party's position. More information regarding trial briefs
can be found in books available in the King County Law Library, such as The Winning
Brief: 100 tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts,
by Bryan Garner.
Most courts hold a Pre-Trial Conference, during which the judge sets the time for
submission of trial briefs about five days in advance of trial. In addition, in jury trials,
each party must present the judge with proposed instructions for the jury (see section
The first step in the actual trial is for each party to give an "opening statement"
about the facts that the party intends to prove. You should use the opening statement
only to give the judge or the jury a preview of the evidence that you intend to present
during the trial. You should not try to argue your case during the opening statement;
your argument comes at the end of the case, after all the evidence has been presented and
the judge has instructed the jury. The plaintiff is permitted to give an opening statement
first, followed by the defendant.
After the opening statements are given, the plaintiff begins presenting evidence.
The most common types of evidence are witnesses and exhibits (for example,
photographs, relevant letters, bills, and other documents). Generally speaking, a witness
will be permitted to testify only about what the witness knows from his or her own
personal knowledge, not about what someone else may have told the witness. However,
there are exceptions to this rule, as explained in the rules of evidence (see section
184.108.40.206). After the plaintiff has questioned a witness ("direct examination"), the court
will permit the defendant to ask his or her own questions ("cross-examination"). If any of
the answers that the witness gives on cross-examination require further explanation, the
court will permit the plaintiff to ask additional questions, which are within the scope of
cross-examination ("re-direct examination"). The court will then permit the defendant to
ask further questions ("re-cross-examination")--and so on, until the witness's knowledge
has been thoroughly explored.
Under King County Local Rule 16, each party must present a list of witnesses and
exhibits to the other party no later than 21 days before trial. If you fail to disclose a
witness, the judge may refuse to allow you to present the witness's testimony. (See
If you want to object to a particular question that is asked by the other side, you
must do so before the question is answered
and you must be prepared to tell the judge the
legal basis of your objection. For example, you may object to a question on the basis that
it calls for hearsay evidence. You are not allowed to wait and see if you like the witness's
answer before making your objection.
Under King County Local Rule 16, a party must submit a list of the exhibits to the
opposing party 21 days before the trial. Later, at the Pre-Trial Conference, usually seven
days before trial, the court may rule on the objections to admission of an exhibit into
evidence. Despite the pretrial preparation at the Pre-Trial Conference, which may declare
the exhibit admissible, you must still present the exhibit through a witness capable of
identifying the document in his or her testimony. If you want an exhibit (a document, for
example) to be considered by the court, you must "offer" the exhibit "into evidence."
Before doing so, you must "lay a foundation" for the exhibit by showing, usually through
the testimony of a witness who is familiar with the exhibit, what the exhibit is and why it
is important to the case.
After the plaintiff's evidence has been presented, the court will permit the defense
to present its evidence. Just as the court permitted the defense to cross-examine the
plaintiff's witnesses, the court will permit the plaintiff to cross-examine the defense
witnesses. After the defense has presented all its evidence, the court will permit the
plaintiff to respond to the defense's evidence by presenting additional evidence, if the
plaintiff chooses, so long as it is not simply a repetition of the evidence that the plaintiff
already presented earlier.
After all the evidence of both parties has been presented, the judge will instruct
the jury, if the trial is by jury.
Each party is then permitted to give a "closing argument." As its name implies,
the closing argument is the place for telling the jury (or the judge, if there is no jury) why
the case should be decided in your favor. The plaintiff argues first, then the defendant,
and lastly the court will permit the plaintiff to make a brief reply, called a "rebuttal," to
the argument of the defendant. Then the judge or jury will consider the case and reach a
decision. For a jury trial, the jury makes its decision by filling in a jury verdict, which is
one of the jury instructions. For a bench trial, the judge makes his/her decision with oral
findings, conclusions, and decisions. The judge will ask the prevailing party to reduce
his decision to writing and present the documents to the court for approval at a later time.
If you want to find out more about trial techniques, a good reference book is the
paperback Trial Techniques
by Thomas A. Mauet, which can be found in some law
libraries and bookstores. If you want to find out more about practice and procedure in
civil cases in the state of Washington, you should look at volumes 14, 14A and 15 of the
multi-volume series called Washington Practice
, which can be found in law libraries.
As we explained at the beginning of this handbook, you will be required at the
trial of your case to obey all the rules and standards that apply to lawyers. The sections
below discuss some common problem areas for persons who are representing themselves.
2.3.2 The Right to a Jury Trial
In many civil cases, each of the parties has a right to demand that the case be
decided by a jury, rather than by a judge. In other words, if one of the parties demands a
jury trial, and the case is one in which a jury trial may be demanded, then the case will be
decided by a jury. It does not matter if the other parties do not want a jury trial.
If a party demands a jury trial, a judge will still preside over the trial. The judge
will rule on motions, decide which evidence is admissible, and instruct the jury about the
law that applies to your case. But the jury will decide the case and determine how much
money, or other relief, if any, to award to a party.
Generally, in dissolution of marriage, paternity, and juvenile cases, no party has a
right to a trial by jury.
If you intend to demand a jury trial, you must follow the court rules for doing so.
If your case is in Superior Court, you should read Rules 38 and 39 of the Superior Court
Civil Rules. You should also read any local court rules regarding the demand for a jury
trial. If you fail to follow the court rules for demanding a jury trial--especially if you wait
too long before making the demand--you risk losing your right to a jury trial. In King
County Superior Court, the Clerk of Court issues a case schedule at the time the plaintiff
files the case. The case schedule establishes the deadline for making a jury demand. If
you fail to make a jury demand on time, the court may conduct your trial without a jury.
Under King County Local Rules 38 and 4, a party must demand a jury at least 14 days
before the trial date. For a jury of twelve, the Clerk of Court requires a jury fee of
2.3.3 Jury Instructions
If your case is going to be tried before a jury, the jury will decide the case, but the
judge will first instruct the jury about the law that must govern their decisions. These
instructions will have an important effect on the outcome of the case.
It is the responsibility of each party to prepare a set of proposed jury instructions
and to present them to the judge before the trial. At the Pre-Trial Conference, the court
will require that the parties exchange proposed jury instructions, usually five days before
During the trial, the judge will decide which instructions should be given. Before
instructing the jury, the judge will tell the parties which instructions have been chosen
and will give each party an opportunity to make objections to those instructions. You
may not challenge a jury instruction on appeal unless (1) you objected to it before the
judge instructed the jury; (2) you explained the basis of your objection; and, in most
cases, (3) you proposed a suitable alternative instruction.
In many cases, appropriate pattern jury instructions can be found in a volume
entitled Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
(WPI for short), which is volume 6
and 6A in the series Washington Practice
, which can be found in most law libraries.
You should check the pocket part in the back of the volume for the most recent versions
of the instructions. If you cannot find an appropriate instruction in the WPI, you will
have to draft one yourself, based on what you think the law is. Section 1.5.2 of this
handbook) discusses how to find the law that applies to your case.
You should check the court rules, including any local rules, to find out how many
copies of your proposed instructions should be given to the judge at the beginning of trial
and in what form they should be presented to the judge. The King County Local Rules
require each party to deliver one cited set of jury instructions to the Clerk of Court; two
uncited, original sets of jury instructions and one cited set of jury instruction to the
judicial assistant or bailiff; and one cited copy to the other parties at least five days in
advance of the trial. A cited jury instruction is a jury instruction with a citation to the
WPI or other precedent in the lower left corner of the page. The citation provides legal
authority for the jury instruction to the trial judge to justify its delivery to the jury.
2.3.4 Jury Selection
If you are going to have a jury trial, one of the first steps at trial will be the
selection of a jury. First, the judge will ask general questions of the prospective jurors.
Next, under the judge's supervision, each party will be given a chance to question each
prospective juror briefly in order to determine the juror's qualifications to serve in that
particular case. Each party may question prospective jurors to determine if the juror can
be fair and impartial in deciding your case.
If the questioning reveals a specific reason why a juror is likely to be prejudiced
in favor of one side or the other, a party may challenge that juror "for cause"; the judge
will then decide whether the juror should be allowed to remain on the jury. There is no
limit on the number of challenges "for cause" that a party may make, but challenges for
cause should be made sparingly, because they are often rejected by the judge and they
might leave the challenged juror feeling that you have attacked his or her integrity. For
that reason, if a challenge for cause is rejected by the judge, the party who made the
challenge should then use a "peremptory" challenge (explained in the next paragraph) to
dismiss the challenged juror.
In addition to challenges for cause, each party is allowed a limited number of
"peremptory" challenges. Peremptory challenges dismiss a certain number of jurors from
the jury panel without giving any reason. The purpose of peremptory challenges is to
permit each party to dismiss jurors who that party has a "feeling" might be prejudiced or
unfavorable to his or her case. The number of peremptory challenges each party is
entitled is determined by state statute. Under RCW 4.44.130, each party may have three
peremptory challenges. However, before jury selection begins, you should make sure
that you and the judge agree on the number of peremptory challenges to which you are
If a juror is dismissed from the jury after being challenged, that juror's place will
be taken by another prospective juror, who may then be questioned. Before making
either a peremptory challenge or a challenge for cause, you should keep in mind that the
juror who replaces the one who is dismissed might be no better, and could be worse.
There are two styles of jury selection that a judge may decide to use. One is the
traditional method of questioning and the other is the "struck" method of questioning.
The questioning is referred to as "voir dire." The traditional method questions jurors for
qualifications one at a time, first with questions from the plaintiff, then with questions
from the defendant. The struck method of questioning jurors for qualifications allows
questions to more than one juror at a time. You should be ready to question jurors under
both styles of jury selection at the time of trial.
2.3.5 Special Forms
: Persons representing themselves must sign a form called a
"Notice of Appearance Pro Se" when they first appear in court. This form is available in
Exhibit Stipulation Form
: Exhibits that parties submit at trial are stored in an
"exhibit room" at the courthouse. The supervisor of the exhibit room will need to know
whether you want your exhibits back when the trial is over. If you do, you should say so
on an "exhibit stipulation form" that you can obtain from the courtroom clerk.
Otherwise, the supervisor of the exhibit room will dispose of the exhibits at the end of the
trial or the appeal period.
Each party is required to provide notebooks to the judge, court
reporter, and opposing counsel. Each notebook must include your witness list, exhibit
list, and exhibits.
2.3.6 The Trial Record--What You Need to Do
The Superior Court arranges for a transcript of all trials. In most Superior Courts,
the court reporter makes a record, word-for-word, of everything that is said during the
trial. In some Superior Courts, a video recording machine makes a video tape recording
of the words and actions of the trial. If you order a copy of the video tape recording at
the beginning of the trial, the expense is less than placing an order for a copy after the
end of the trial. The courtroom clerk keeps an abbreviated record (called "minutes") of
what happens during the trial, too. In order to help make a clear record, you need to do
A. Speak loudly and clearly. Identify yourself by name and address (including
zip code) at the beginning of the trial.
B. When you call a witness, the first thing you should ask the witness to state his
or her full name (spelling the last name, unless it is a common one) and
complete address, including zip code. Under King County Local Rule 16(a),
the parties must prepare a Joint Statement of the Evidence, which includes a
list of witnesses that each party intends to call at trial. If the witness is not on
the Joint Statement of the Evidence, the trial judge may not permit that
witness to testify.
C. When you intend to offer an exhibit into evidence, hand the exhibit to the
courtroom clerk and ask that it be marked for identification. The courtroom
clerk will then write a number on it, such as "Defendant's Exhibit Number 3."
Always use that number when you are referring to the exhibit. The number
will remain with the exhibit throughout the trial and any proceedings after the
trial. Under King County Local Rule 16(a), the parties must prepare a Joint
Statement of the Evidence, which includes a list of exhibits that each party
intends to submit at trial. The Joint Statement must contain a statement
indicating to the court whether the parties agree to the admission of the exhibit
or object to its admission. Some courts will request that the parties number
the exhibits. If the exhibit is not on the Joint Statement of the Evidence, the
Court may admit the exhibit "as justice requires."
D. Return the exhibit to the courtroom clerk when the witness has finished
testifying about that exhibit. Never remove any exhibit from the courtroom
The courtroom clerk must maintain absolute control over all the exhibits;
otherwise, a mistrial could result, causing the parties to begin the trial again
on another day.
E. Remember that an exhibit cannot be considered by the judge or the jury in
deciding the case unless the exhibit has been "offered" and "admitted" into
evidence. At any given time, the courtroom clerk can tell you the status of
any exhibit (that is, whether it has been admitted into evidence, been refused,
or been withdrawn by the party who offered it). If you need that information,
you should ask the courtroom clerk for it. The courtroom clerk is not
permitted to remind you that an exhibit has not been admitted into evidence.
F. Use words, not gestures, to get your idea across. The court reporter cannot
record gestures, and you may later need to rely on the written record to
explain what you or a witness said. For example, a nod of the head is not
enough; the witness should say "yes." If a witness is trying to describe the
size of something, the witness should use words such as inches, feet, or yards.
G. Do not try to hand things directly to the judge. If you want the judge to
examine or read something, hand it to the courtroom clerk, who will then hand
it to the judge.
H. Before your trial or hearing, make an outline of what you intend to prove or
the points you intend to make. Take the outline with you into the courtroom,
and refer to it when you need to. You might want to add this outline to your
copy of your trial notebook along with questions for witnesses, outlines of
your opening statement, and your closing argument. These techniques will
make your presentation smoother and will reduce the chance of forgetting
something. (This does not apply to witnesses; witnesses tend to be more
believable if they can testify from memory). If you have time, it can also be
helpful to rehearse your presentation at home or with a friend before you go to
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested