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Attending a hearing

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Preparing for the hearing

Whether you are the applicant bringing the claim or the respondent defending it, you should prepare as fully as possible for your hearing.

  • Write down the main things you want to say, and organise them into a clear and logical explanation of your argument.
  • You can make a written submission to the Tribunal, giving the relevant arguments and details of your dispute.
  • Organise evidence such as letters, invoices, receipts, contracts, quotes, photos, or police reports.
  • Send any documents to us before the hearing, and send a copy to the other parties. This is especially important if you (or the other party) are appearing by teleconference.
  • Whenever you send documents to us, make sure you include the CIV number from your notice of hearing.

Interpreters

If you have difficulty communicating in English and need an interpreter, tell us as soon as possible. We will arrange for an independent interpreter to be present at the hearing. This is a free service.

Postponements

If you can’t attend the hearing on the date specified, you can ask for a postponement. You need a good reason to obtain a change of date – for example, being ill or overseas. Contact us immediately, as postponements are not automatically granted. You may have to provide supporting evidence proving why you can’t attend on the scheduled date, such as medical certificates or a copy of your flight itinerary.

If you don’t obtain a postponement, the hearing will proceed whether you are there or not.

Teleconferences

The hearing will be held in a hearing room at the District Court where the claim was filed. The address and room details are included in the Notice of Hearing. If you live a considerable distance from where the claim is being heard, you can apply to take part by telephone conference from a court closer to you.

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Who can attend a hearing?

Disputes Tribunal hearings are private and are closed to the public and the media. Both you and the other side will present your own cases without a lawyer or other representative.

In rare situations the Tribunal may allow a person to attend the hearing if they have a genuine and proper interest in the case or in the work of the Disputes Tribunal.

Witnesses

Witnesses can attend the hearing to give evidence. It's up to you to ask any witnesses who can support your case to attend the hearing. If a witness refuses to attend, the Tribunal can order them to attend by giving them a summons.

Support people

You can ask to bring a support person to the hearing. However, the support person is not allowed to speak or participate during the hearing unless permitted to do so by the Referee.

Representatives

In some limited cases, you may be allowed to request a representative. For example if you:

  • are under 18 years of age
  • have a disability that prevents you from presenting your own case
  • for some other good reason, are unable to present your case.

If you require a representative you must contact the Disputes Tribunal before the hearing to seek permission.

Note: The representative cannot be (or have been) a lawyer or an experienced advocate, unless they are a party to the claim.

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At the hearing

  • The referee will introduce him or herself, and explain the procedure for the hearing.
  • Both parties will have the opportunity to explain their side of the dispute. The applicant will be invited to speak first. There will then be a discussion about the points that are in disagreement.
  • Any witnesses will be called into the hearing room to give evidence. Both parties and the referee can question the witnesses.

If one of the parties doesn't attend

The referee can make a decision even if one of the parties is not there. The referee's decision will be based on the information presented at the hearing. If there is an important reason why you can’t make the hearing, you should contact us as soon as possible to see if the hearing can be postponed.

Agreed settlements

During the hearing the referee will try to assist you and the other party to reach agreement. If you reach an agreement and it is approved by the referee, it has the effect of an order of the Tribunal and can be enforced in the same way as an order.

Decision by the referee

If you can’t reach an agreement, the referee will consider the evidence and make a decision. This decision may be given at the hearing or it may be posted to the parties at a later date.

Continued hearings

Sometimes the referee may need further information before they can make a decision. If so, the hearing will be adjourned and you will need to come back at another time. You may be asked to bring particular documents, witnesses or other information to the next hearing.

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