What is a Readiness Hearing, and What is Its Purpose?
In Australia, a readiness hearing is a procedural hearing for both parties in a dispute to ensure their cases are ready for trial. Typically, you will receive notice of the hearing at least two months before the date of the hearing. A registrar, managing magistrate, or judge oversees your readiness hearing.
It is important to note that your readiness hearing is not the time to try and negotiate with the other party. The judicial officer present will not attempt to intervene or move the parties towards any sort of compromise. However, if both parties have reached an agreement, the court-appointed overseer is permitted to make orders by consent. This includes finalising the case.
Additionally, each party should have filed a written notice verifying that they have complied with their duty of Disclosure.
What Happens in a Readiness Hearing?
A minimum of seven days before your readiness hearing, you must file a Trial Plan. This is a document to help estimate how long your trial will run. It must provide the expected length of the opening and closing statements, a list of witnesses who will be called to testify, and an approximation of how long the examination and cross-examination of witnesses should take.
You will also need to be prepared to answer questions similar to the following:
- Are any witnesses in prison who will need a bring-up order
- Are telephone or video link facilities necessary
- Have you specified with exactness the final orders you seek at trial
- Have you complied with all preparatory matters, including disclosure and inspection of disclosure documents
- Have you complied with all previous orders, including the filing of your documents for trial
- How long the trial will take
- How many of the other party’s witnesses do you intend to cross-examine
- If there are any issues agreed upon
- Is a fixed date necessary for the trial
- Primary points of fact or law relevant to your case.
- The number of witnesses needed at the trial
- Will interpreters be required for the trial?
Once the judicial officer determines your case is ready for trial, it will go into the next available slot for Callover. Typically, this will be between two and three months later.
How Do I Prepare for a Compliance and Readiness Hearing?
At one of your previous court appearances, a judicial officer would have given you and the other party procedural papers that provide a timetable for filing and service of trial affidavits and other documents, as well as payment of the setting down and hearing fees. It is essential that you understand and fulfil your Duty of Disclosure.
A minimum of 56 days, unless other provisions have been set forth, both parties must file and serve an Undertaking as to Disclosure. An Undertaking of Disclosure states that you have:
- Read the Court rules about Disclosure.
- Acknowledged and understand your duty to the Court and other parties to provide total Disclosure
Complied to the best of your knowledge and ability
- Been made aware that you can be found guilty of contempt of court by breaching the undertaking.
Additionally, you must attach a list of all your relevant documents for the disclosure. Typically, you will have already handed over copies of these to the other party. If you have any questions about anything transpiring, you should ask your legal representative.
You must understand the crucial nature of the Duty of Disclosure. If you do not comply, it is within the Court’s power to:
- Dismiss or stay all or part of your case
- Order that you must pay costs
- Prevent the use of the document or information as evidence in your case
- Find you in contempt of court for not properly disclosing documents or for breaching your undertaking. If you are found guilty of contempt of court charges, you can be fined or imprisoned.
What is the Progression of a Readiness Hearing in the Context of Court Procedures?
The Readiness Hearing comes after your Procedural Hearing Conciliation Conference. It is vital to remember the fact that taking a case to court is typically the last resort. However, if you and the other party are not able to reach an agreement earlier in the process, the Readiness Hearing is the next step in the process. This will be followed by a procedural hearing known as the Callover to set your trial date, the trial where the Court hears evidence from both parties, the Judge’s decision, which can come several months later, and finally, the legally binding court orders.
What is the Difference Between a Mention and a Hearing?
The term mention refers to the case appearing in court for a short time, usually to deal with a procedural matter, such as determining bail or setting future court dates. A mention should not be confused with a hearing.
In court, a hearing is a proceeding where the evidence is presented to the court after an accused or defendant has entered a not-guilty plea.
It is understandable to feel a bit over your depth when dealing with legal disputes. That is why the team at My Legal Crunch is with you every step of the way. You can count on our experience and compassion as you navigate the court system. If you need legal assistance, do not hesitate to contact us. We promise you you do not need to go through your issues alone.