trial process

The Trial Process in Common Law East Africa

Taking one’s dispute to a court of law is an expensive venture, both in terms of time and money. The court system is lengthy and the trial process drags on and on. There are four stages in a trial. In their chronological order, from the beginning, they are:

  1. Pleading Stage
  2. Pretrial Stage
  3. Trial Stage
  4. Post-Trial stage

Pleading Stage

This is the stage at which the aggrieved, usually called the complainant, or the plaintiff, or the petitioner, or the claimant, or the applicant, files their complaint. After the aggrieved has filed his complaint, a summons is issued by the court to the defendant. Summons a notification by the court to the defendant notifying him or her that a suit has been instituted against them. On receipt of the summons, the person against whom they have a claim, usually called the respondent, or the defendant, responds to the plaintiff’s claim by filing their response to the claim or their defence.

Read more on Summons HERE.

Pleadings must be filed in a court with competent jurisdiction over both parties.

Pretrial Stage

This stage involves the discovery process. It is the stage at which a pre-trial conference is held to determine what the facts are, determine which facts are in contention, and therefore form issues for determination before the court.

Trial Stage

This is the stage when the court sits to hear the case. In East Africa, it is mostly called a “hearing”. During the hearing, testimony on behalf of all parties is heard. On presenting the witnesses, they present arguments and justifications for the case. The defendant can cross-examine the witnesses of the plaintiff and vice versa. The purpose of cross-examination is to dismiss, discredit, or disprove the witness’s statements.

Post-Trial Stage

At the end of the hearing, Counsel for both parties summarise their client’s positions in what is called closing statements.

After the closing statements, the court delivers the verdict. The verdict is also called the judgement. If either party is aggrieved by the judgement of the court, then he or she can appeal to a higher court.


This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 3 Issue 3 of March 16th 2018. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE

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