The day of the hearing
The courtrooms open at 9:45 am. Do not be late for court. Remember it can take some time to find your courtroom. You do not have to wear a fancy suit, but try to wear something respectful if you can.
Be sure to bring your petition record with you on the day of the hearing along with your other court documents. 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 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). The list will also say what courtroom you are in. If you do not see your case on the list, you should still go the courthouse. Sometimes there are not enough judges for everybody, even people who booked in advance, but the only way to know for sure is to go the courthouse on the day of your hearing.
If there are no other cases taking place in the courtroom when you arrive, go up to the court clerk sitting right in front of the judge’s seat and tell them who you are and that you are representing yourself. If you are the only case happening in the court room that day, you can put your belongings on one of the tables. If you are the one who started the case (filed the petition), then you take the table on the left, facing the judge. If someone else like your employer started the case and you are responding to it, then you sit on the right as you are facing the judge.
If there is another case taking place, go quietly up to the side of the clerk’s desk and hand them a piece of paper with your name and the style of cause of your case written on it. Then sit in the gallery (the seats in the back of the courtroom) until the court clerk calls out your case.
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 in the afternoon.
You can bring a support person to court if you think that this 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 table with you. That way, your support person can take notes and pass things to you if you need them. 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 really 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 who speaks fluent English.
Presenting your case to the judge
When the judge comes into the room, stand up. The judge will usually bow to the people in the courtroom before sitting down and you should bow back.
A judicial review hearing usually goes something like this:
- Introductions: When everyone is ready, including the judge, introduce yourself and spell your last name slowly. Tell the judge that you are representing yourself and that you are the petitioner in the judicial review. The other parties (or their lawyers) will then introduce themselves.
- Housekeeping: The judge may want to confirm that everyone who is planning to show up has arrived and is ready to go. If another party has not shown up, you should be prepared to tell the judge how and when you served them with your petition. The judge may also make sure that everyone has all the binders and other paperwork they need for the hearing. Hand the Book of Authorities to the court clerk to give the judge if you have not done so already. If you did not put your written argument in the petition record, you should hand that to the clerk as well.
- The petitioner’s argument: The person who filed the petition to start the case goes first and presents their case.
- The respondent(s) argument: Each person who is responding to the case started by the petitioner present their case and why they agree or disagree with what the petitioner is asking for.
- The petitioner is given a chance to quickly respond to what the respondents have said.
Here are is an overview about how to present your case. If you wrote out a written argument, you can use that as a guide to making your presentation:
- Start by giving a very brief summary of what your case is about.
- Give a very brief summary of what you are asking the court to do.
- Go over the facts in an organized way.
- Go over the legal issues and the specific errors that you are saying WCAT made.
- Show the judge the evidence that supports your case by pointing out where the evidence is in the affidavits or the WCAT certified record. Use the tab numbers and page numbers to help the judge find the documents.
You should follow these tips when presenting your case:
- Keep it short and simple. Decide what you think is fundamentally wrong with the WCAT decision. Your job is to make the problem(s) with the 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 as simple and short as possible.
- Remember the legal tests the judge must apply. Trying to argue about your entire WCB claim from scratch will just frustrate the judge. In most cases, the judge cannot help you just because they disagrees with WCAT’s decision or just because you really need the money. The judge can only review WCAT’s decision for specific types of mistakes. You should focus on showing the judge the specific mistakes that will let them set aside WCAT’s decision.
- Stay on topic. Stick to what is wrong with the WCAT 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 wrong with the WCAT decision. Again, you should be able to summarize your case in a few sentences.
- Be polite and patient. In court, everybody gets their turn. You may have to listen to the other side say things that you do not agree with but do not interrupt or talk over them. Make a note and respond when it is your turn. 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 WCAT’s decision is bad. 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. If you are following your written argument, use the paragraph numbers to tell the judge where you are.
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.
This is a sample of what someone might say to a judge in a judicial review: Sample Judicial Review Oral Presentation