A hearing is a court case where a decision will be made about your case. It is a hearing ‘de novo’ which means it is a fresh or new look at all the issues in dispute.
At the end of the conference (or the directions hearing) you will be advised of the date, time and location of the hearing. The hearing is generally held about six to eight weeks after the date the conference concludes.
The hearing will generally be presided over by:
- a single commissioner or single judge, or
- a judge and one or two commissioners (a full court)
The judge or commissioner who presided at the conference will not generally be involved in the hearing.
Generally cases are presided over by a judge or a full bench (rather than a commissioner) if they involve issues of law or if they are particularly complex.
Often the hearing starts on site with a ’view’ – where the person or persons presiding over the case, the parties, the parties’ lawyers (if there are any), and some court staff meet at the site to view the land the subject of the appeal e.g. tree, development or proposal. The court will let you know if your case is going to start with a view. Generally an hour will be spent on site, however, this is at the discretion of the parties.
If there is no view, or after the view is finished, the case is usually heard in a court room in the Sir Samuel Way Building on Victoria Square in Adelaide.
Where it is more convenient, the court can decide to hold the hearing in a country town – usually in the court house, council chambers or town hall of the town closest to the subject of the dispute. This option will generally occur if there are a number of lay witnesses from a rural community whom are required to give evidence.
A judge or commissioner (or in the case of a ‘full bench’, the judge and one or two commissioners) presiding over the hearing will sit at the front of the room at a high desk called ‘the bench’.
The judge’s or commissioner’s secretary and other court staff may also attend – usually sitting in front of the judge or commissioner at a lower desk.
Lawyers and parties representing themselves sit at a long table (the ‘bar table’) facing the bench.
A court reporter will also be in the court – either up the front of the court typing or behind a glass screen at the back of the court audio taping.
Other people (e.g. parties being represented by a lawyer, witnesses and members of the public) will sit in the seats at the back of the court room. Some times witnesses may be asked to leave the court room and wait outside so that they don’t hear evidence given by others.
You should have already provided the court with copies of all relevant documents. See Preparing for the hearing for further information.
You will need to take the originals to the court with you (and a copy for yourself).
If there are any documents you haven’t already provided to the court and to the other party you will need to bring these along (with copies for everyone – including the required number of copies for the court – two for a single judge or commissioner, four for a full bench).
You should bring a pen and paper so that you can make notes.
After all the evidence has been given and the parties have summed up, the court will usually reserve (or defer) its decision. That gives the judge or commissioner (or both in the case of a full bench) some time to think about the case and prepare a written decision. The decision (or judgment) has no time limit for completion and the judicial officer will take as long as they require to complete the decision. Generally the timeframe is approximately within 8 weeks.