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in civil procedure, a conference held after the pleadings have been filed and before the trial begins, for the purpose of bringing the parties together to outline discovery proceedings, and define the issues to be tried. Courts often use the pretrial conference as an opportunity to encourage settlement.
In criminal procedure, a pretrial conference is also used to review evidentiary issues prior to trial, but because of the privilege against self-incrimination and the presumption of innocence, it is not as comprehensive or useful to the parties as in civil cases. Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; © 2016