Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
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Rules Governing the
Superior Court of the Virgin Islands

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.

Case Notes

Generally

Default judgment

Prejudice

Reconciliation

Generally

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. Supp. 380.

Default judgment

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.

Prejudice

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.

Reconciliation

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

Cited in Spell v. A&J Power Sys., D.C.V.I. 2000, 42 V.I. 200, -- F. Supp. 2d --.

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