A pretrial conference is a meeting held before trial to outline the issues of a case and set timeframes for legal and procedural matters. Pretrial conferences are governed by rules of state and local courts, which vary by jurisdiction.
For example, in a divorce matter, the judge will attempt to narrow the issues involved in the case, provide deadlines for filing schedules of assets, conducting discovery, filing of proposed visitation and custody plans, and other related matters. Depending on the jurisdiction a case management questionairre may need to be filled out. The judge may also decide to send the parties to arbitration or mediation to settle disputed matters.
The following is an example of a rule governing pretrial conferences:
"24.5.318 PRETRIAL CONFERENCE AND ORDER
- A final pretrial conference shall precede every trial unless otherwise ordered by the court.
- The court may appoint a hearing examiner to conduct the pretrial conference and may delegate authority to such hearing examiner to make rulings on all matters discussed at the pretrial conference, including pretrial motions of the parties.
- In the discretion of the court in appropriate circumstances, a pretrial conference may be conducted by a telephone conference call.
- At the time of the pretrial conference the parties shall present a proposed pretrial order in the form provided in (5). Disputes as to the content of the final pretrial order shall be presented and resolved at the pretrial conference. The final, signed pretrial order shall be filed and received at the court by the Friday preceding the trial.
- The pretrial order must be signed by all parties and shall set forth the following:
- a statement of jurisdiction pursuant to the appropriate statutes;
- a list of all pending motions;
- any uncontested facts;
- any stipulations between the parties;
- a statement of the issues to be determined by the court;
- the petitioner's and respondent's contentions, including in the case of petitioner all contentions which provide the basis for any claim of unreasonableness on the part of the insurer;
- a list of all exhibits to be offered by each party, including the grounds of any objections an adverse party may have to the admission of particular exhibits;
- the identity of all witnesses who may be called, including the name, address, and occupation of each witness, and the subject matter of the testimony each witness will give;
- any unusual legal or evidentiary issues;
- the estimated length of trial; and
- a statement as to whether or not the parties will be filing trial briefs and/or proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
- Upon approval by the court the pretrial order shall supersede all other pleadings and shall govern the trial proceedings. Amendments to the pretrial order shall be allowed by either stipulation of the parties or leave of court for good cause shown.
- All exhibits which will be offered at trial shall be provided to the court at the time of the pretrial conference. The exhibits shall be bound or in a three-ring notebook. The exhibits shall be tabbed and numbered consecutively. All pages within an exhibit shall be numbered beginning with 1. Exhibits attached to depositions must also be numbered sequentially.
- Upon request an earlier preliminary pretrial conference may be scheduled and held to address any discovery or other issues encountered by the parties."