Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Before a court can properly decide a case and enter judgment, certain things must have taken place. The court must have obtained jurisdiction over the parties and over the controversy to be decided.'Limits must be set to the controversy so that the court and the parties may know how to direct their efforts, and so that the court may rule on questions of relevancy. The issues of fact and of law must be framed so that each is allocated to the appropriate tribunal for decision and is presented clearly enough so that the tribunal knows what to decide. The adversary must be given fair notice of the case alleged against him so that he will be able to prepare his own case to try to meet it. There must be some appropriate time and place set apart for allowing the parties to present their evidence or their arguments to the tribunal. The basis for the judgment should be so laid that parties may determine its scope whenever it becomes important, either for enforcing the judgment itself or in some later proceeding. The obtention of jurisdiction must probably precede a valid judgment; beyond that there is no ironclad time sequence for these steps. Judgment may even precede trial or hearing, provided the one cast in judgment is given reasonable opportunity to present his case upon attacking the judgment after it is entered. But of course trial or hearing nearly always comes before judgment. Moreover it is certainly desirable from the point of view of convenience and administrative efficiency to have as many of the other steps taken before trial as possible. Otherwise the trial itself must be interrupted while issues are framed and the controversy limited or while the adversary is given opportunity to meet contentions of which he had no notice.