Updated 21 April 2020
Courts and tribunals are changing the way they operate to minimise in person contact in response to the COVID19 Pandemic.
One of the measures implemented by courts and tribunals to reduce hearings in person is to move towards making decision ‘on the papers’ or ‘in chambers’. This means that a decision will be made by a judicial officer in their chambers based on written materials filed by parties, without verbal evidence or oral submissions.
If a decision is to be made ‘on the papers’, the court or tribunal will usually make orders for you to file your written evidence or submissions in relation to that particular decision before it is scheduled to be handed down.
No, not all decisions made by Courts and Tribunals can be made ‘on the papers’. This type of decision making is usually reserved for decisions relating to case management, rather than as a final determination of the legal matter in dispute.
Some examples of hearings where a decision may be made ‘on the papers’ are:
You will be notified in writing of the outcome of the decision by post or email.
If a Court or Tribunal indicates that orders in relation to a decision will be made on the papers in your matter, you could expedite that decision by actively communicating with your other party or parties to agree on consent orders about that decision. This means that, together, you and the other side can tell the Court together what you want to do in relation to that decision, and when you want to do it by.
Sally is suing Ben. The Court has previously ordered Sally to submit her arguments by 1 April 2020, and Ben to submit his defence by 20 April 2020. However, both parties have missed these deadlines and the Court has told them that it will make orders ‘on the papers’ for new deadlines.
Sally and Ben discuss the matter together and agree that neither of them can focus on the proceedings while working from home. Ben writes to the Court, copying in Sally, and submits that they have agreed to seek consent orders for Sally to submit her arguments by 1 August 2020, and Ben will submit his defence by 20 August 2020.
Seeing that Sally and Ben are in agreement, the Court issues the consent orders that they had sought.
You and the other party can seek a consent order from the Court, even if you disagree over a small part of the decision to be made. In that case, simply write to the Court together and inform them of any agreed orders and highlight any areas of disagreement the Court is to decide on.
If you don’t think the Court has all the information it needs to make the decision, you can email your submissions to the Court explaining why you believe a hearing should take place. In that case, you should also inform the Court about your ability to attend the requested hearing remotely, either by telephone or video conference.
Remember – always copy the other side of the proceedings in any of your correspondence with the Court.
Information from courts and tribunals is changing all the time so we recommend that you contact the specific registry hearing your matter for the most up-to-date information relevant to your case.
We have collated links to the latest updates and information from some courts and tribunals, which are available in our resource on accessing courts and tribunals during COVID-19.