FOR HONOLULU CASES ONLY! IF YOU HAD YOUR HEARING AT ANOTHER COURTHOUSE, SKIP TO THE TRIAL STAGE.
Pre-Trial is the second proceeding in the eviction process. You will meet your landlord, his or her attorney (if applicable), and the Judge for an informal conference. The Judge will begin by asking whether you have reached an agreement. If you have not reached an agreement, the Judge will ask you to meet with a mediator to try and resolve your eviction dispute. The mediator’s job is to help you settle the dispute; he/she is not on any “side.” Rather, the mediator’s job is to listen to both sides of the story and to try and help you reach a fair settlement. After mediation, you will meet with the Judge again to tell him/her whether you have reached a settlement.
What happens if we reach a settlement?
If you reach a settlement, the mediator will put the agreement in writing. Make sure you review it and understand what you are agreeing to. Never sign an agreement you do not agree with or do not understand!You will go back in front of the Judge with your landlord and the mediator. The Judge will review the agreement and make sure both you and your landlord agree to the terms. If you both agree to the written terms of the settlement, the Judge will read the agreement into the court record. Once the agreement is read into the record it becomes a binding court order. At this point, you should not have any additional court dates unless you agreed to one in your settlement. For example, you may have reached a settlement agreement to pay your landlord $500 to stay for an additional two weeks. Your landlord may not be willing to dismiss the eviction case because they want to make sure you actually move out in two weeks. So, in the settlement agreement, you could agree to a court date in one month to make sure everyone follows the terms of the agreement. If you do move out and pay the $500, then your landlord will dismiss the case at the next court date. If you do not follow the terms of the agreement, then your landlord has the right to come back to court at that next court date.
What happens if we can’t reach a settlement?
If you can’t reach a settlement, the Judge will schedule your case for Trial. Typically, the Trial will be scheduled within a week or less. You will have to tell the Judge the names of witnesses you expect to have at your Trial. Your landlord will do the same. You will also be given a date to exchange exhibits with your landlord. Exhibits are things like letters or pictures that you want the Court to see as proof of your side of the story. Exchanging exhibits is part of the discovery process. Discovery is the legal process where you obtain information from your landlord to help prove your case, and vice-versa.
It is VERY important to exchange your exhibits with your landlord on the date the Court ordered you to do so. If you do not exchange your exhibits by the court-ordered date, the Judge may not allow you to use them in the trial and you could lose because you will have no documents as evidence.