Civil Case Flow
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  • Time Period: Within the applicable Statute of Limitations
  • Definition: This is the first document filed by the Plaintiff to start the lawsuit. It is a brief statement of the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant. See, ARCP, Rules 3, 7-15 & ARS §12-501 et seq [2]
Service of Complaint
  • Time Period: Within 120 days of filing of the Complaint
  • Definition: Once the Complaint is filed the Plaintiff must serve the Summons and Complaint upon the Defendant. This gives the Defendant notice that a lawsuit has been filed and informs the Defendant what must be done to respond to the lawsuit. See, ARCP Rules 4-4.2
  • Time Period: Within 20 days of Service of Complaint
  • Definition: This is the pleading filed by the Defendant that responds to the claims made by the Plaintiff in the Complaint. See, ARCP 7-15 & ARCP Rule 12
Default (if no answer is filed)
  • Time Period: After 20 days of Service of Complaint
  • Definition: If a Defendant does not file an Answer or Rule 12 Motion, after having been served with a Complaint, the Plaintiff may proceed to obtain a judgment by default. See, ARCP, Rule 55
  • Time Period: Occurs between Answer and Trial (See, Disclosure & Discovery page [3])
  • Definition: This is the process by which the parties learn from each other about  the facts of the case and the position each party is taking with each issue in the case. There are a number of duties and procedures that govern the exchange of this information between the parties. See, ARCP Rules 26-37 [3]
Motion to Set / Certificate of Readiness 
  • Time Period: After Answer and within 9 months of filing Complaint
  • Definition: Once an Answer has been filed, any party may file a Motion to Set/Certificate of Readiness. See, ARCP Rule 38 and Rule 72-77
  • Time Period: After Defendant files an Answer
  • Definition: By Arizona Statute and Court Rule, civil cases, where the amount in controversy is less than $50,000.00, must be heard in an arbitration proceeding. In an arbitration an attorney is appointed by the Court to hear the case and make a decision. Arbitration hearings are much simpler than a trial and can be heard much quicker. If either party is dissatisfied with the arbitration award they can appeal and have a new trial by the Court. See, ARCP Rule 72-77 [4]
Trial Notice
  • Time Period: Within 30 days of filing Motion to Set
  • Definition: If a case is set for trial, the Court will issue a trial notice that informs the parties whether the case is set for trial before a jury or the Court, the date of the trial, and the number of days the trial will take. Other information is included in the trial notice regarding practice and procedures before the Court. Based on custom and practice [2]
Pretrial Conference
  • Time Period: At any time, but earlier is better
  • Definition: In more complex cases and in medical malpractice cases a Pretrial Conference is held. At the Pretrial Conference deadlines for disclosure and discovery are set. This allows for the timely and orderly preparation of the case for trial. See, ARCP Rule 16(a)
Status Conference
  • Time Period: 60 days prior to Trial
  • Definition: This is held approximately 60 days before trial. At the conference the Court confers with the parties to determine if the lawsuit may proceed to trial as scheduled and to resolve any outstanding issues that may interfere with proceeding to trial as scheduled. See, ARCP Rule 16(d)
  • Time Period: Typically within 9 months of Motion to Set
  • Definition: This is the actual presentation of the Plaintiff's lawsuit to the Judge and/or jury for decision. See, ARCP Rules 38-52


  1. The above time frames set forth the general sequence of a simple and typical civil action. There are many special circumstances, rules, or situation that may alter the time frames or steps shown above. This chart is not meant to be all inclusive of all cases and is meant only for illustrative purposes.
    1. ARS - refers to the Arizona Revised Statutes
    2. ARCP - refers to the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure
    3. Custom and practice - refers to the typical time frame the Court will do something but is not governed specifically by rule or statute.
  2. See Civil page "Disclosure and Discovery" for an expanded discussion of this process.
  3. See Civil page "Arbitration" for an expanded discussion of the arbitration process.
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