Community Legal Assistance Society - BC Judicial Review Self-Help Guide

Preparing to Present in Court

It is very important to prepare for your judicial review hearing. A judge may hear many cases in a day and you need to be able to present your case quickly and clearly. You also need to be able to answer any questions the judge might have. You and the respondents to your petition have to get the entire case done within the time you reserved for your judicial review, and the judge may have a lot of questions.

Spend some time thinking about how you can clearly explain your case to the judge. You should be able to reduce your case down to a few sentences. If you have a friend willing to listen, you should practice how you will explain things clearly to the judge.

It is important that you review all the judicial review documents, especially affidavits, and know where everything is in the petition record. Have all your documents organized so that you can find things quickly if you need to. It might be helpful to use post-it notes to flag important documents.

The day of the hearing

The courtrooms open at 9:45 am and court generally starts at 10:00 am. Do not be late for court. Get there well before the courtroom opens at 9:45.

Be sure to bring your petition record with you on the day of the hearing as well as all your other court documents. Also bring some spare paper and pens to take notes.

When you get to the courthouse, look for a list of cases being heard that day “in chambers”. The list will look like this. You can access the Daily Court list online here, by selecting the location of your hearing under “Supreme Chamber List”. Your hearing should be on the list under the style of cause (the case name). Go the courtroom that your hearing is scheduled in. If you are having trouble finding where your hearing is scheduled, ask a sheriff or the registry staff.

When you get to the courtroom, if court is not in session go up to the clerk’s desk at the front of the courtroom and tell the clerk your name and that you are representing yourself. If court is already in session, go quietly up to the clerk’s desk and hand him or her a piece of paper with your name and the style of cause of your case written on it.

Other cases may be scheduled for the same courtroom, so once you have given the clerk your name, you may have to wait until your case is called. If this is the case, go sit in the gallery (the seats in the back of the courtroom) and wait. Be patient and do not disrupt the court if other cases are going first.

Court generally runs from 10:00 am until 12:30 pm, and then from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm. There is also a short break in the middle of the morning and afternoon.

You can bring a support person to court with you if you think that will make you more comfortable. The support person can either wait in the back of the courtroom for you, or you can ask the judge if they can be a “McKenzie Friend” and sit up at the counsel table with you. That way, your support person can take notes and pass you things if you need it. Your McKenzie friend cannot speak for you or represent you in the court without very special permission from the judge. You should only request such permission if there is a good reason why you cannot represent yourself, for example if you have serious disabilities that limit your ability to explain things or handle the stress of court, or if your English is limited and you need the assistance of a friend with fluent English.

Presenting your case to the judge

When the court clerk calls your name, go up to the front of the courtroom. You can put your things on one of the tables at the front. If you are the petitioner, take the table on the right. When it’s time to speak, you will stand at the podium.

When everyone is ready, including the judge, introduce yourself and spell your last name slowly. Tell the judge that you are representing yourself and you are the petitioner in the judicial review. The other parties (or their lawyers) will then introduce themselves.

The judge will then ask you to proceed with your case. The following tips will help you present your case:

  • Keep it short and simple. Decide what you think is fundamentally wrong with the Tribunal decision. Your job is to make the problem(s) with the tribunal’s decision clear to the judge. Most judicial reviews can be reduced down to a few simple sentences. Make sure that you include all the important points, but keep it simple and as short as possible.
  • Stay on topic. Once you have identified what is wrong with the tribunal’s decision, stick to that. Focus on showing the judge specifically what is wrong with the tribunal’s decision. It may be tempting to go into a lot of background, perhaps to try and make the other side look bad or make yourself look sympathetic, but that is almost never helpful. Going off topic distracts the judge and makes it harder to understand what is really wrong with the tribunal’s decision. Again, you should be able to summarize your case in a few sentences.
  • Be polite and patient. There is a lot of waiting in chambers and it can take time for your case to be called. Once your case is called, the judge may want you to slow down, and you may have to listen to the other side say things that you do not agree with. Sometimes the judge might be having a bad day. Stay calm, do not get frustrated, and do not talk over other people (especially the judge!).
  • Be organized. The more organized you are, the clearer you can make things for the judge. Remember, your job is to help the judge see why the RTB’s decision is problematic. When presenting to the judge, come up with an organized way to explain your case. Chronological order is often a good way to organize a presentation, but there may be other approaches that make sense.

The judge will have the petition record in front of her or him, but it is important to realize that the judge may not have read everything. Some helpful things you should do to get your case across are:

  • Give a very brief summary of what you are asking for and what your case is about (a couple of sentences).
  • If the other parties are not there, tell the judge how and when you served the other parties with your court materials.
  • You can follow your written argument when making your presentation to the court. If you included your written argument in your petition record, you can ask the judge to read your written argument along with you.
  • Go over the facts in an organized way.
  • Go over the legal issues and the specific errors you are saying the Tribunal made.
  • Show the judge the evidence that supports your case by pointing out where the evidence is in the affidavits in the petition record (use the tab numbers and page numbers to help the judge find the documents).

The judge may well interrupt you and ask you questions. Be patient and try to answer the questions honestly and simply. If you need a minute to find something, or if you don’t understand what is being asked, politely tell the judge.

Once you are finished, the other parties will have a chance to present their case and why they do not agree with your judicial review. It is important to listen quietly and not interrupt. Take notes on what they are saying. When they are finished, the judge may give you a brief time to reply to what they said.

This is a sample of what someone might say to a judge in a judicial review: Sample Judicial Review Oral Presentation