General Tips for Court Attendance 2: The Hearing Process
Are you due to attend court hearing but not sure what to expect? In this article, we will provide a brief run-down of the hearing process while offering some general tips that will assist you on the day of the hearing.
You may be aware of the basic court etiquette and expectations that apply to everyone attending court. If not, you may consider reading our article on basic court etiquette and general tips for preparing for the day of hearing. Assuming you have already familiarized yourself with those rules, you are now ready to enter the courtroom.
1. Waiting from the Public Gallery
As you enter the courtroom, it is customary to stand in the doorway and bow your head to the Coat of Arms behind the magistrate or judge as a sign of respect before finding your seat. Likewise, you should again bow your head to the Court of Arms when leaving the courtroom.
As there may be several cases listed on the same day, you may have to wait for your case to be called. Until then, you should wait patiently in the public gallery until the court is ready to hear your case.
2. Announcing Appearances
Once you matter has been called, only then should you approach the bar table.
If you are bringing a matter to court (Applicant), you should sit on the right side of the bar table before the judge or magistrate. If you are defending the matter (Respondent), then you should sit on the left side.
The Applicant will stand first and announce his/her appearance and be seated, followed by the Respondent. You should announce your appearance by saying “Your Honour, [insert name], the Applicant/ Respondent” and be seated.
If your case has been called and you or the other party is not present, the case may be dismissed. If you have to leave the court room for any reason before the matter is called, it is important to notify the court staff that you have to leave.
3. The Hearing
Throughout the hearing, you will speak only to the magistrate or judge, and not to the other party. If you disagree with something that is said, you should make note of it. You will have the opportunity to respond once they have finished speaking.
You should be courteous, including to the other party. We advise that you should not raise your voice or make insulting remarks about the other party, no matter how angry you may get.
You should not refer to any settlement negotiations or information discussed during mediation as this information is confidential.
You will need to stand up if the judge is speaking directly to you. You can sit down when the other party is speaking.
3.1 What to expect during the Hearing
3.1.1 Have you attempted to resolve the dispute?
At the beginning of the hearing, the magistrate or judge may ask if you and the other party have had discussions to try to resolve the dispute.
You will be encouraged to attempt a resolution if you have not already done so. You may be given an opportunity to participate in mediation to see if the dispute can be resolved without a hearing.
3.1.2 What are the facts?
The magistrate or judge may also begin by asking you and the other party about the facts or may choose to focus on points they know are important.
Keep in mind that the magistrate or judge may not have read all the details of the claim, so you may need to provide a brief overview of the case before discussing the facts of the matter.
You do not have a lot of time to explain your case and answer questions. You should be prepared to present the main facts and issues of your case so that the magistrate or judge knows exactly why you are there. Never present your case from the very start and go through all the details of the claim before arriving to the most important point at the end.
The magistrate or judge will want to know exactly how you have decided on your claim. You should be prepared to explain to the court how the amount has been calculated.
3.1.3 What is the evidence?
You may also be asked questions while you are presenting the facts and your evidence. Therefore, you should keep all your evidence and documents with you and make sure that they are readily accessible.
If you have important documents you would like the judge to see, which were not filed with the court as part of the response, you can ask the judge’s associate or court clerk to hand them to the magistrate or judge.
However, the magistrate or judge may decide not to consider them if you have not given the other party notice of these documents.
You may also be cross-examined by the other party about the evidence you have provided. If the magistrate or judge asks you a question, you will direct your answer to them.
Don’t be afraid to ask the magistrate or judge if you need a moment to think or take a breath during cross-examination.
If you do not understand a question that you are being asked, you may ask the person to repeat it.
We strongly suggest that you tell the truth at all times when you are giving evidence. If you do not know the answer, say that you do not know, rather than try to guess or offer an opinion.
5. The Judgment
The magistrate or judge can make a decision or ‘order’ once they have heard from both parties.
5.1 When the decision is made
After hearing from both parties, the magistrate or judge may make a decision or ‘order’:
- Straight after, and announce the decision in court at the end of the hearing; or
- Delay and ‘reserve’ the decision to a later dat
If a decision has been made on the day, we advise that you make notes of the decision. The court clerk or judge’s associate will either hand you a copy of the orders in the court room, or a copy will be posted to you.
If the magistrate or judge haven chosen to reserve their decision, this means that they are taking further time to consider the evidence.
The magistrate or judge may ask you to return to court at a specific time that day when the matter has been decided, or if the magistrate or judge requires further time, you will be notified when the orders are ready to be delivered.
We advise that the magistrate or judge may adjourn the hearing or reschedule it to a later date and request that you and the other party do certain things before the hearing. You might be asked to gather further evidence, or further advice about your claim. You should follow the magistrate or judge’s instructions or ask the court clerk or judge’s associate for further guidance.
5.2 The “victor”?
The order may be made in favour of you or the other party, or the magistrate or judge may accept some parts of the claim but dismiss others based on the evidence that was presented to them.
The successful party will be the party who can best prove their claim through evidence and convince the magistrate or judge that their case is more likely to be true.
If the matter is not decided in your favour, that does not necessarily mean that the magistrate or judge did not believe what you said. The magistrate or judge has to follow the law and can only base their decision on the evidence that is presented to the court. It might be possible that you have not produced enough evidence to prove your claims on the day, or the other party’s evidence may have been more convincing.
If you do not attend the hearing, the magistrate or judge will usually consider the other party’s evidence and decide the case in your absence, or the court may make a default judgment order. If the other party’s evidence is strong enough to convince the judge that the claim is made out, the magistrate or judge may award some or all of the amount claimed.
6. After Hearing
After the judgment, the party who wins and who has been awarded money is known as the judgment creditor. The party who is obligated to pay the judgment debt is known as the judgment debtor.
As orders made by the court are made to the Applicant personally, the orders are in the Applicant’s name and the Applicant is the only person with the authority to enforce these orders if the judgment debtor does not comply with them.
The orders will usually specify a date for payment and if the judgment debtor does not pay with the magistrate or judge’s orders, the Applicant may take further legal action to recover the money. This process is known as enforcing the judgment debt.
Enforcement procedures are not limited to Summons for Oral Examination, Warrant to Seize and Sell Property, Warrant to Seize and Sell Real Property, Forced (involuntary) Bankruptcy and Winding up of a company.
Going to court can be daunting and stressful, and that feeling is completely normal. With these tips, we hope that we have offered you some peace of mind. If you require any legal assistance, feel free to contact our team.