Understanding the Law
February 21, 2020

Your Conduct in Court

YOU HAVE BROUGHT a claim against another party in court. Since you are the claimant you have a duty to be present everyday of the trial, because you need to be there to hear the presentations.

Moreover, you would be required to give evidence.

Your lawyer would notify you as to the date of the hearing, as a list of the matters is normally circulated via e-mail to the lawyers. In fact, you should have been in court for case management and pre-trial hearing. So you should know the date, because it is usually decided in a case management conference that you would have attended. Your lawyer would convey any changes in the trial date to you.

The location Some civil matters are heard in the top floor of the Courthouse building. This floor serves a dual purpose and when the House of Assembly is not meeting it serves as a courtroom for open court matters. Fixed date hearings are heard in the Court office in the Coreas Building where one of the rooms is constituted as a court.

The day of the trial You are required to be present by 9 a.m. This is an open court and the officers of the court would be there in full regalia. The judge and lawyers would be wearing their black robe and white bans. The bailiff of the court would be similarly dressed, minus the bans. You and the defendant are required to be dressed modestly in sober colours. You would sit close enough to your lawyer in case you have to draw attention to something.

Your conduct All the witnesses are examined and your lawyer does the examination- in-chief, while the lawyer on the other side does the cross-examination. Witnesses on the other side are cross-examined by your lawyer.

You are required to answer truthfully. It would be fatal to your case if you give a different version to what you would have sworn to.

If you are lying then the other side might be able to bring this out under cross-examination. You cannot contradict another witness on the stand by blurting out information.

You could get the attention of your lawyer and inform him about any contradiction. Your conduct is of utmost importance.

At the end of the session when the judge gives her judgment she would say whether she believes you or the defendant. Very often it is the person whom the judge believes who would succeed.

Depending on the nature of the matter and the number of witnesses, the hearing could last for a long time. A simple matter could last one day, while a complicated matter could last for weeks. You have to be patient and attend court everyday of the trial.

The end of the trial The judge would ask the lawyers on both sides to provide written submissions by a particular date.

In this submission the lawyers for the claimant and the defendant would produce their version of the case incorporating the evidence that was given in court. They would use past cases (precedent) to emphasize or explain issues that came up. You would have to wait for some time to obtain your judgment.

There is no fixed time, but your lawyer would inform you when the judgment would be delivered. It could be oral or written.

If you disagree with the judgment you could appeal it, but you must file the notice of appeal within 42 days of the date when judgment was served on you.

● Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com