Rule 64. Conduct of trial
Immediately prior to the trial of any case, the judge shall elicit from
the defendant, a statement as to the nature of the defense, and shall make an
earnest effort to settle the controversy by conciliation. If the judge fails to
induce the parties to settle their differences without a trial, he shall
proceed with the hearing on the merits. The parties and witnesses shall be
sworn. The judge shall conduct the trial in such manner as to do substantial
justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law, and
shall not be bound by the statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure,
pleadings, or evidence, except such provisions relating to privileged
communications.--Amended May 28, 1957; Oct. 14, 1994, eff. Nov. 16, 1994.
Courts in this jurisdiction generally disfavor default judgments, and
prefer to decide controversies on the merits, rather than on procedural
grounds. Ryans Restaurant, Inc. v. Lewis, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35 V.I. 187, 949 F.
Considering that appellant produced a sworn affidavit explaining why its
representative did not appear at trial and given appellants' continued interest
in litigating the dispute and the court's preference for deciding cases on the
merits, substantial justice warranted the setting aside of the default judgment
entered against appellants. Ryans Restaurant, Inc. v. Lewis, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35
V.I. 187, 949 F. Supp. 380.
Although a tenant, involved in a landlord-tenant lease dispute, was posed
a question at trial by the judge but was unable to answer the question because
the landlord stepped forward and answered on tenant's behalf without her
authorization, the tenant did not suffer any prejudice due to the interruption,
nor did the trial court commit any reversible error. Melendez v. Boschulte,
D.C.V.I. 1997, 35 V.I. 192, 950 F. Supp. 119.
The failure of the trial judge to attempt reconciliation between the
parties prior to the trial proper did not rise above harmless error since
nothing in the record suggested that the parties were open to settlement prior
to trial. Stevens v. Andrew Rogers Electric, D.C.V.I. 1994, 31 V.I. 172.
Cited in Spell v. A&J Power Sys., D.C.V.I. 2000, 42 V.I. 200, -- F.
Supp. 2d --.
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