If you are ever involved in any form of legal proceedings, you will need to participate in a court hearing at some point. Are you wondering what to expect at your first court hearing?
If you are feeling a bit like Denny Denuto (from the iconic movie 'The Castle') and are not sure what to do in Court, please read on for some key things you need to know.
What is a Court Hearing?
A court hearing is where you are required to go into the relevant Court or Tribunal and have a particular question determined by a Judge (or Tribunal Member). The other party to the proceedings will also be present, and you will both put your 'case' to the Judge on a particular issue. Evidence and court documents will be presented to the Judge, as necessary, and the Judge will make a decision on the answer to that issue or question.
How long is a Court Hearing?
There are many types of court hearings, and many different questions that can be determined by the Court or Tribunal. Depending on the type of hearing, a hearing can take 5 minutes or 5 weeks.
How to prepare for a Court Hearing
The first step leave the photocopier alone.
Your next steps will depend on what type of Court hearing it is. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will do most of the preparation, and will tell you what you need to do, if anything.
If you do not have a lawyer, you will need to have all of your papers and thoughts organised beforehand. Some common things to do before a hearing can include:
- Ensuring that the Court has clear, legible copies of all of the documents and evidence that you want to rely on to support your case. Please keep in mind that the Court will only want to see evidence and documents necessary for the purpose of that hearing, and not necessarily the proceeding as a whole
- Having with you on the day copies of all court documents (both yours and the other party's)
- Writing out what your arguments are. This is a trick that all lawyers use and will be very useful to you so that you remember what you want to say. You will, in essence, be saying what you want from the Court and why
- Planning your day in advance to reduce as much stress as possible on the day. Confirm the date, time and location of your hearing. Plan how long it will take you to get into Court, what the public transport or traffic times will be, parking etc. Plan to arrive early. You will be able to find your hearing details on the hearing notice or on the Court or Tribunal's website. Courts and Tribunals will have daily hearing lists available. Usually these lists are put on the website the afternoon before the hearing and will confirm what court room your hearing will be in
- Taking a note pad to write on during the hearing and
- Asking questions if you are unsure about anything, call the Court or Tribunal Registry. Have your proceeding number handy. They will be able to assist you with any procedural questions. They will not, however, be able to give you legal advice.
What to wear to a Court Hearing
You must be dressed neatly and appropriately. No hats or offensive slogans. Corporate wear is a safe theme to follow.
How to act in a courtroom is important, so we have listed some basic courtroom protocols for you to follow:
First, be on time a no brainer. The Court may proceed with the hearing without you.
Secondly, turn off your mobile phone!
Thirdly, respect. You must show the Judge and the Court respect at all times, including:
- Whenever the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom, you will need to stand. The Associate will instruct everybody when to do so
- When the Court is in session, you must pause and bow your head to the Judge as you enter and leave the courtroom
- You must call a Judge "Your Honour" or a Tribunal Member "Sir" or "Madam"
- Do not interrupt the Judge or your opponent when they are speaking, even if you do not agree with what they are saying. You will get your chance to speak
- If you are in a Court (not a Tribunal), you must stand when you are speaking to the Judge or the Judge speaks to you and
- At the end of the hearing, regardless of what the Judge decides, you must say "As the Court pleases" at the very end of the hearing.
For information on what happens in a court hearing, read Part 2 : A Case of the Denny Denuto's.
Court hearings are extremely important to the outcome of any proceedings. Your legal position, your preparation and your behaviour in the courtroom will all affect the Judge's decision. Court hearings can also be extremely nerve racking and confusing, particularly if you have not engaged with the legal system before.
At Sharrock Pitman Legal we can help you understand the requirements of your Court hearing and advise you on the process and your options. If you need advice or assistance, please contact us and it would be our pleasure to assist you. Call Sharrock Pitman Legal today on 1300 205 506.
The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.
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For further information contact
Simon is a Senior Associate of Sharrock Pitman Legal.
He is an Accredited Commercial Litigation Specialist (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria) and deals with Litigation, Mediation of Disputes, and Law for Charities & Not for Profits. For further information, contact Simon Matters on his direct line (03) 8561 3324.