As explained in the topic Litigation, "pleading" is one of the phases of the litigation process.
In the pleading stage of a criminal or civil case, the defendant is entitled to show that he has been charged or accused incorrectly; there is no such right in an adiminstrative case. One must carefully distinguish between the defendant's right to prove he has been charged incorrectly, as opposed to his right to prove that he is innocent of the charges if it is a criminal case, or that he is free of liability if it is a civil case. An incorrect charge does not necessarily mean the defendant is innocent or free of liability, just as a correctly worded charge does not necessarily mean he is guilty or liable. Nevertheless, a pleading challenge sometimes can resolve a case partially or even entirely.
The motions that challenge the sufficiency of a pleading generally include the demurrer, motion to strike, and motion for judgment on the pleadings.
- A demurrer says essentially that even if everything in the pleading could be proved, the dispute still could not be resolved against the defendant.
- A motion to strike says that the pleading contains words and charges that are not allowed to be there.
- A motion for judgment on the pleadings says that the pleading itself constitutes an admission that the dispute must be resolved in favor of the defendant.
After hearing any such motion, the court usually grants the pleader one or more opportunities to submit a sufficient pleading. The motion can be renewed for each successive pleading. This phase ends when the tribunal declares that the pleading is sufficient or that no further opportunities will be given to submit an amended one. In the latter event, the entire dispute may be resolved in the defendant's favor, or the dispute over the pleading itself may be resolved by an order which eliminates parts of the pleading. Generally, a pleading motion is likely to result in victory for the defendant only when the motion reveals to the tribunal that an essential element of the case is incapable of being proved.
To learn more about the next phase in a case, see Discovery. If you are a plaintiff's attorney and you need pleadings, see Dog Bite Litigation Forms for Plaintiffs' Attorneys. There are pleadings on the Internet but they should be used by attorneys who know how to adapt them and know which can be used at all. See, for example, Demurrer to Answer (California).