What is General Litigation?
Our Courts are forums for dispute resolution and ultimately every disputed legal issue can end up in court. Therefore, the term general litigation refers to using our court system to resolve contested matters.
Our State District Courts have jurisdiction over civil matters valued under $25,000 and misdemeanor criminal charges which involve jail time under one (1) year.
District Court – Small Claims has jurisdiction over civil claims with a value under $6,500. Attorneys cannot practice in Small Claims Court but may remove a case to regular District Court. Small Claims Court is a forum where the citizen represents themselves and attorneys fees won’t exceed the amount in dispute.
Our State Circuit Courts have equity jurisdiction (an ability to fashion remedies) and jurisdiction in civil cases where the dispute or damages sought are over $25,000; and felony criminal charges which have a penalty of one (1) year or more in prison.
Other areas of the law which are litigated include contracts, business disputes, real estate transactions, administrative matters, and more.
The State also has “specialized” Courts including Probate Court and Workers Compensation Court.
The Federal (U.S.) Courts have jurisdiction over federal questions (law) and diversity jurisdiction where one person or entity is from another state and the dispute is over $75,000 or more.
Civil Rights cases are brought in the U.S. District Court (such as 42 U.S.C. 1983, jail suicide, excessive force, etc.).
Bankruptcy Court is also a Federal, U.S. Court.
What is Arbitration and Meditation?
Arbitration and mediation are alternative forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). If you have a dispute with someone you have three choices:
Settle, resolve or abandon the dispute.
Undertake alternative dispute resolution (ADR) (either before or after lawsuit).
File a lawsuit against the opposing party.
Arbitration is usually binding and can be held before one to three arbitrators.
Mediation can be independently arranged or mandated by the Court. Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between parties, assists in identifying issues, and helps explore solutions to promote a mutually acceptable settlement. A mediator has no authoritative decision-making power.
Case Evaluation can also be independently arranged or mandated by the Court under MCR 2.403, where three (3) case evaluators (usually attorneys) hear the presentation of the case and render an award. Sanctions can attach and the losing party may have to pay attorney’s fees and costs for not reaching a settlement.
In recent times, people are more willing to engage in alternative dispute resolution due to the cost and time involved in litigation. Arbitration and mediation are different in several ways but similar in that they provide an alternative to court and are usually less expensive.
Can I appeal an order or judgment?
Yes. You absolutely have the right to appeal a lower court's decision. Though before you do so you need to be very careful what you decide to appeal. Appellate courts give wide discretion to trial courts regarding their findings of fact; appeals are costly and usually involve a great deal of time, preparation and, therefore expense. The time period within which to file an appeal varies depending upon the type of case, but it can be as short as 21 days from the entry of an Order.