Scheduling a hearing, a necessary part of civil litigation, involves you. Motion hearings allow you to face your opponent, make your argument, and persuade the judge. They’re scheduled after the filing of a motion or pleading.
In small claims, eviction, and traffic courts, someone in the court clerk’s office sets a hearing date. You show up and argue your case. Typically, you get a decision that day or one is mailed to you shortly thereafter. That’s pretty straightforward.
In litigation, things aren’t always so tidy.
Challenges of Scheduling a Hearing
You’ve struggled with proper wording and formatting of your motion, and you think you’ve done well. You go down to the courthouse or online and file your motion. Unaware that there’s more to do, you simply stop there. You wait for an answer from your opponent or for the court to schedule a hearing. That’s not how things work in litigation. If things are to move in your direction, you must move them.
For example, your opponent doesn’t always have to respond to a motion. Does that mean you win? In most cases no, especially if there’s a lawyer on the other side. If you don’t do something following your motion, it could lay there for months. To have a judge rule on it, there must be a hearing. Who schedules that hearing? Uh you. Don’t look to the clerk or your opponent’s attorney to do that for you.
Likewise, you must be involved when your opponent needs to set a hearing on his or her motion. Some attorneys attempt to schedule hearings without the input of pro se parties. Outside of emergency motions, this is disrespectful. If a hearing is set without your involvement, loudly “object”. That is, move to either continue the hearing, reset it, or strike the notice on the grounds of due process and access to justice. The setting of a hearing should not be unilateral.
The Notice of Hearing
Notices are so routine and mundane in litigation that they’re almost dull. They don’t contain arguments or prayers for relief, accusations or allegations like other litigation documents. Still, there’s a process that must be followed so that hearings are scheduled properly.
Notices are the formal way one party tells the other that a hearing has been set. Notices help courts run smoothly. There is some latitude though. You can file the motion first and set the hearing long afterwards, or set the hearing at the same time you file the motion. It all depends on your strategy. Once you’ve decided you want your motion heard in court, check with the rules of civil procedure for your jurisdiction regarding scheduling a hearing, then go for it. In some jurisdictions, it’s also customary to file a notice of motion.
Suggested Checklist for Scheduling a Hearing
Below is a general checklist of things you’ll want to remember when scheduling a hearing.
To set a date…
___Determine the amount of time you need for the hearing.
___If possible, review the judge’s calendar for the dates you want to schedule the hearing.
___If you can’t review the calendar, contact the court to request three hearing dates.
___Tell the clerk or judicial assistant the motion you want heard and amount of time required.*
___Once you get the dates, contact your opponent to get agreement on one of them.
___When the date is agreed upon, contact the clerk to have it put on the judge’s calendar.
___Schedule a court reporter for the hearing.
*Unless the motion is very complex, and there are many issues to argue, fifteen minutes should be long enough. Be respectful of the judge’s time. Don’t ask for an hour simply because you can. Neither should you ask for an hour to discuss irrelevant issues.
Once the date is set…
___Location of the hearing
___Address where the hearing will take place
___Room number where the hearing will take place
___Indication that a court reporter will be present (hopefully you’ll have one!)
___The title of the motion to be argued
___Required language such as ADA instructions or other local court requirements
___File the original notice in the clerk’s office or online using the clerk’s electronic notification system.
See a Sample Notice of Hearing.
After you file…
___Send the notice of hearing to your court reporter. You may have to pay the court reporter at that time.
___Write a proposed order if you like. In the order…
___Include a brief and straightforward background of the case.
___State the findings, or facts you want the court to rely upon to decide the motion.
___Provide space for the actual decision of the court: Granted, Denied, notes, etc.
___Don’t file the proposed order. Bring it with you to court with copies for opposing parties.
___Give the original proposed order to the judge. (The judge may choose to write his own order).
___Give a copy of the proposed order to your opponent(s).
___If the judge asks your opponent’s attorney to write the order, be sure you have input.