Scheduling a Trial
Trials have to be scheduled well in advance. How long it will take to set a trial varies with how long the trial will be, and what registry your claim is filed in. You therefore may wish to make your request for a trial date as soon as you can, even if all the pre-trial steps are not yet completed. Usually, it is the plaintiff that schedules the trial date but any party to the action can do so. There are a few steps to take to schedule your trial date.
Step 1: Estimate the time you need for trial
You need to have an accurate estimate of how long the entire trial will take before you schedule the trial date with the court.
Accurately guessing how long a trial will take is hard. If you estimate too little time, you will not finish, and you may have to wait a long time to complete the trial. Further, judges often get annoyed when not enough time is set aside for a matter.
Consider realistically how long you think the trial will take:
- How many witnesses will testify for you?
- How many witnesses will testify for the other side?
- How long will each witness speak?
- How long will it take to cross-examine witnesses?
- How long will it take you to present your evidence?
- How long will it take you to sum up your case for the judge?
- How long will it take you to make arguments about the law applicable to your case?
- How much time will the other party need for their witnesses and case presentation?
The court moves slowly. Things often take more time than you would expect. Unexpected things happen. A “day” in Court is only four hours of actual Court time (10:00 am to 12:30, with a 15-minute break, and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, with a 15-minute break). Additionally, it takes time between witnesses for one to leave and the next to get settled in and then swear or affirm.
Step 2 Get agreement from other parties
Once you have an idea of how long you think the trial will take, you need to consult with the other parties (and their lawyers). You need to find out if they agree with your estimate. If not, how long do they think it will take? Can you come to an agreement on trial length?
If you cannot come to an agreement on a time estimate or are otherwise having trouble setting the matter for trial, you may wish to request a Case Planning Conference. See Case Planning Conferences.
You also need to find out when the other side is available for trial. If you go through all the trouble of setting a trial but then the other side cannot attend and needs to adjourn the trial, then all that effort is wasted. It will also needlessly annoy both the other side and the Court to set dates without confirming the other party is available.
Usually, you check the other side’s availability by asking them to list the days that they are not available for trial. Because the Court is busy and has limited trial dates, parties need to be as flexible as possible as to dates and prioritize the trial over other commitments.
Step 3 Set a date with the courts
Once you know the parties’ availability and the time estimate, contact the Supreme Court scheduler in the registry where the Notice of Civil Claim was filed. They will assist you with scheduling a trial date. Each registry has a different practice for booking trial dates, and different documentation is required for trials of different trial lengths, so it is a good idea to contact the Supreme Court scheduler as soon as you can to find out what you need to do to book a trial date. You can find contact information for the right Supreme Court Scheduling office for your claim here.
Trial dates can also be assigned at a Case Planning Conference. See Case Planning Conferences for more information.
Step 4 File and serve a Notice of Trial
Once you have a trial date, either set at a Case Planning Conference or reserved from the Registry, then you can complete a Notice of Trial (Form 40). If you are the plaintiff, you must serve your notice of trial on all other parties of record promptly after filing it. The notice of trial must include the date set out in a case plan order for the trial or, if no trial date is set out in a case plan order, the trial date obtained from the registry.
Changing the Date
If you object to a trial date set by another party, you must, within 21 days of receiving the notice of trial, either request a case planning conference (see Case Planning Conferences) or file an application to have the trial rescheduled (see Chambers Applications). If you are the party who filed the notice of trial you will also have to prepare and file a document called a trial record, discussed below.