Allison Harrison
September 12, 2023

When Can I Tell a Judge My Side of the Story?

We hear this question a lot! A lot of people believe that a case goes immediately to trial. Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood portrayals, cases do not immediately go to trial; clients do not immediately get to speak to a judge (unless it is small claims). Lawsuits are structured, with specific stages dedicated to different parts of the case. Each part of the case is when the client can tell their part of the story, it may, however, only be to the opposing party. The Judge is typically the last person involved in determining the case. Here is an overview of the process for Common Pleas and Municipal Court cases:


The Plaintiff is the party that brings the lawsuit. The lawsuit is started by the filing of a complaint; a written document that outlines all of the allegations against each party. When a complaint is filed with the Court no one at the Court reviews it for credibility. If the Plaintiff (or there attorney) pays the filing fee or waiver and meets the technical requirements (all the paperwork) the complaint will proceed. The Complaint is then served on the Defendant(s) who have committed the alleged wrongdoing. Service is completed via certified mail, regular mail, process server, or newspaper publication. Once the Complaint is properly served, the Defendant has 28-days in Ohio to Answer or otherwise defend the Complaint. It is crucial to calculate the days from service properly. If a Defendant fails to respond, they can have judgment levied against them.

Depositions and Discovery:

These are the fact-finding phases. The parties can issue written discovery on each other asking admit/deny questions (called Admissions), short answer (called Interrogatories), and ask for relevant documents to be produced. Both sides can engage in this written questioning. The parties to the lawsuit can ask 3rd parties for information by issuing subpoenas. Additionally, parties may conduct depositions which is an oral questioning of a party to the lawsuit or 3rd parties with information. Both sides gather evidence, and witnesses might be questioned under oath during depositions. In written discovery and depositions, it is your chance to share your side of events in detail. While this is time to tell your side of the story to the other party, discovery is never directly in front of a judge.

Motion Hearings:

Before a trial, attorneys can file various motions, such as requests to dismiss the case or exclude certain pieces of evidence. At these hearings, while the primary focus is on the motion's legal aspects, attorneys might refer to the facts of the case, which could include your version of events. Attorneys may reference deposition transcripts or other written discovery in the case. It is rare to have an evidentiary hearing (where witnesses are called to testify) for a Motion. Most Motions are decided by written argument. If a Motion hearings is held, the parties will call witnesses and present evidence in front of the Judge.


Here’s the most evident platform. During a trial, both sides present their evidence and make arguments to either a judge or a jury. If you're a party to the case or a witness, you'll likely be called to testify. When testifying, you'll relay your side of the story under oath. It's paramount to be clear, concise, and truthful. Oftentimes this is the first time clients meet the Judge and get to “tell their side of the story.”  A “fast” trial is 12-18 months after the Complaint has been served.