Hello, I am Jeffrey Hart with the Feldstein Family Law Group.
In earlier videos, my colleagues took a closer look at starting and responding to a Court Application, Case Conferences, Motions and Settlement Conferences. I encourage you to view those videos. Today, I would like to continue where they left off, which is with Trial Management Conferences.
Trial Management Conferences
What is a Trial Management Conference?
Well, just like a Case Conference and a Settlement Conference there will be some discussion between the parties, their lawyers and a judge about settling the case. However, the primary focus of the Trial Management Conference is determining whether or not your matter is ready to proceed to trial. The presumption at this point in the litigation is that the parties cannot resolve their issues without the assistance of the Court. As such, we need to make sure the parties are ready to conduct a trial, as opposed to just thinking they are ready, and if the conference judge is of the opinion that the parties are ready for trial, the conference judge will add the matter to the trial list.
Why do we have a Trial Management Conference?
Well, trial time is perceived to be very valuable by the Court, as such before a matter can be added to the trial list the Court will want to discuss the evidence that will be called at the trial, and the rules that will be followed by the parties at the trial. If there were no discussions of this sort before the trial, then everyone may show up on the first day of the trial and say they are not ready to proceed. If the trial cannot proceed, then precious trial time has been wasted, and that is not something the Court likes at all. So, basically, this court appearance is very technical and will involve discussion between the conference judge and your lawyer regarding trial procedure. As with other conferences, both the lawyer and his or her client must attend, unless a judge has ordered otherwise.
What is discussed at a Trial Management Conference?
Well, some of the things you should be prepared to discuss are whether you will be using any expert evidence at the trial, or whether your evidence may be entered in affidavit form. As well, you should be ready to discuss the order of how the trial will proceed, including all your witnesses and on what subjects they will be testifying, and how long you think your part of the trial will take. This court date is “all business” and making sure the trial judge knows that the conference judge has asked you the important questions and that you have given the appropriate answers. The last thing the conference judge will want is to list your matter for trial when it is not ready to proceed, as this will again result in the loss of precious trial time.
Just like in a Case and Settlement Conference, the judge will need to know the issues, your theory on those issues, and a brief summary of the evidence you will be relying on. This is done by completing a Trial Management Conference Brief. This Brief is a lot more complicated than the Case Conference or Settlement Conference Brief, as it involves a much more thorough assessment of the issues and has a section where you are asked to give the Court your opening statement for the trial. You should consider retaining the services of a lawyer to assist you with completing your Trial Management Conference Brief, as unlike the Case Conference and Settlement Conference Briefs, which are returned to you after the conference is completed, the Trial Management Conference Brief forms part of the court record and is reviewed by the trial judge. As such, your Brief may very well be the first communication you have with the trial judge, you will want it to make a good first impression.
You will have to make sure you serve your spouse or her or his lawyer with a copy of the Brief and then arrange to have the Brief filed in the court record, which if you started the Application must be done at least seven days before the date of the Conference, and at least four business days before the Conference if you responded to the Application.
If your matter is ready to proceed to a trial, then the judge will add your matter to the trial list and you should start preparing for the trial, but that is a different topic for a different day.