Preparing For Trial in the Justice of the Peace Court
How you prepare and what you do to prepare for a trial
will vary and depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
The following information is provided as a guideline and is not intended
to be all-inclusive. As a reminder, the court clerks may not provide legal
advice or recommendations.
Here are some important things to remember about preparing for trial:
- You should be sure to know the exact date and time of your trial
and be there on time. If you settle your case before the date set
for trial, notify the court in writing, so that the court may plan for
other cases to be heard.
- Although the Justice of the Peace Court is
less formal than the higher courts, the Rules
of Evidence must still be followed. You should try to familiarize
yourself with some of the most important Rules as described in "Questions
and Answers About the Rules of Evidence.". For further information
see the Delaware Uniform Rules of
- You should bring with you to trial all papers,
documents, materials or pictures which have anything to do with your
case. Bring all written materials, including, but not limited to
receipts bills, and estimates to show to the judge to help prove your
claim or counterclaim – both that you were injured or lost money and the actual damages (monetary amount) that you have suffered. If your
claim is for automobile or other property damage, you may bring a qualified
witness to testify to the damages caused by the other party and the
cost to repair the damages, or you may bring repair estimates, receipts
or cancelled checks.
- You should also bring any other witnesses who
can help you explain your case. (A written statement from witnesses
who cannot appear in court for you cannot be considered by the judge because of the Rules of Evidence (and the inability of the other party to cross-examine the witness as
to the statement contained in the document.) Make sure your witness
knows the exact date, time and place of the trial and then make sure
the witness appears for trial. If you are not sure that a witness will
show up at court, you may subpoena the witness (have the court order
the person to appear at court to testify) by filing a request for a
subpoena with the court at least five days prior to the trial date.
There is a $5.00 fee for each subpoena.
- Remember, whether you are the plaintiff or
the defendant, you must appear at the trial, or you will lose the case. A non-suit may be
entered against a plaintiff who fails to appear and a default
judgment may be entered against a defendant who fails to appear.
If there is a valid reason why you cannot be in court on the day of
the trial, write the court, if possible, or call, if not, to request
a continuance (postponement) to another date. In your continuance request
please state why you need a continuance and whether the other party
or attorney agrees with the continuance request (if it is possible for
you to ask their position on your request). Please take note that
any continuance request received less than 48 hours prior to trial,
or repetitive continuance requests, will most likely be denied unless
there is a true emergency.