A better way for Lawyers to Read a ‘CASE file’.
Have you ever got confused regarding your case in front of a judge?
Like, out of fear or due to confusion, you answered something incorrectly in front of the judge…
I have seen many such incidents where the judge asks a specific question and the advocate gets confused or answers incorrectly due to lack of knowledge of that case.
In this blog post, I have tried to come up with some tips, which you must keep in your mind while reading a case.
Reading is a crucial job under a lawyer’s work profile. Of which the most important thing is reading the Case File.
“But I have to handle so many matters..!!”
This is no excuse to you if you are an Advocate.
If you are assisting an arguing counsel and he makes a wrong submission, then too, you will be held responsible because the arguing counsel is completely relying on your information.
And this may end up in harsh scoldings and embarrassment.
All, only because you didn’t read the file properly.
An advocate is ought to know the minutest details of a particular case he is handling.
And that is only possible if you read the case file thoroughly.
In the starting phase, a novice lawyer may not even understand where to start, which part to pay more attention, which is the right file, right page, right para etc.
That needs practice.
A Case File consists of Court drafts, judgements, acknowledgements, sometimes even maps, certificates, photographs, etc. and many others documents depending on the case.
We can simplify it here, just for the sake of our understanding under the following headings.
1) Documents belonging to litigants.
It includes pleadings, rejoinders, replies, affidavits, etc.
Don’t forget to check out the prayer para to get an idea what the pleadings are about.
2) Documents belonging to courts & Judicial authorities.
- Judgements of lower courts – these Judgements are usually not part of pleadings, but you may come across it during appeals.
- Also includes Orders & Judgements of other courts. This happens when same litigants are involved in more than one cases which is being tried in different courts simultaneously.
- Copies of Judgements relevant to that case, which are to be cited during arguments.
3) Documents belonging to other govt.authorities.
- It includes Administrative Documents. ex: Filing receipts, office reports, any correspondence with the court registry. Don’t ignore them, as these receipts become important, when the court is verifying whether particular documents were filed within the specified time.
- It also includes Documents belonging to Government or Public Authority. ex: Special Statute or Regulations, Public Notices, Official Guidelines, publications which may provide data, analysis on specific topics.
Now comes the question, HOW to exactly READ a case file?
First golden rule is ‘Do not Skim’ & ‘Do not Skip’ through any part of the file. At least in your first reading you must definitely not skip.
Start with full attention by reading the Cover page.
It will answer the major questions. It tells you in which court is the matter going on?, type of proceedings, name of the parties, in which year the matter is filed?, connection to another matter if any, etc.
Index – Tells you what exactly it contains. And, If your file doesn’t have an index then create one.
Then go through EACH page of the file, so that you know… ‘what is where’,
what were the arguments at each stage?, what were the findings?, etc.
You must be able to answer random questions thrown at you by the court, ex: what is the date of this order?, what are these misc. applications for?, no. of days in case of delay, etc.
Most of the time people read their side of the arguments attentively and give less importance to the submissions made by the other side.
You must also know, what the other side has submitted. It can work in your favour too, if the other side says something contradictory to what they have said in the earlier hearings.
So don’t do that mistake, it is equally important.
Firstly segregate all the documents.
Make a list of all the events, documents and the calendar dates of that event beside it.
Mark with a highlighter, what you feel as necessary to be highlighted.
All this will help you very much when you read the same file again. Which is usually certain.