Types of Tribunal Hearings

Last Reviewed: October, 2023 Reviewed by: JES

What kind of hearing will it be?

If the parties cannot agree how to resolve the dispute during the case management process, an adjudicator may hold a hearing and make a decision. Not all tribunal hearings are done in person. Many hearings are done over the telephone or by giving written submissions. Sometimes the tribunal will arrange for the hearing to be done by videoconference so you do not have to travel a long distance to attend the hearing in person.

The tribunal will advise you what type of hearing you will have – by written submission, by videoconference, over the telephone, or in-person. The tribunal may post this information on its website or it may contact you directly to give you your options. Some tribunals will let you choose the type of hearing you would like to have.If you are not sure about the process, be sure to contact the tribunal and ask questions.

What to expect at the hearing

Administrative tribunals are less formal than the courts. The courts have a standard set of rules that govern all court proceedings, but tribunals are established to resolve disputes about very different and specific topics. For this reason, every tribunal follows its own set of rules and procedures and your first step is to find out what rules to follow. Most tribunals have a self-help section on their website, which provides information about hearings, applicable legislation, rules, and policies. If the tribunal you will be attending has hearings that are open to the public, go to a hearing to see how they are conducted. This will help you prepare for your own case. Although tribunals are less formal than courts, you must still adhere to general principles of decorum:

  • Be respectful of everyone at the hearing: the adjudicator, other parties, witnesses, and tribunal staff.
  • Dress in a professional manner. You do not need to wear a suit or formal clothing, but you should dress appropriately to appear before a decision-maker.
  • You should be punctual and follow the instructions of tribunal staff.

Are tribunal hearings open to the public?

Some tribunal hearings are open to the public. If you would like to attend a hearing so you know what to expect at your own hearing, check the tribunal’s website (or call the office) to find out the dates of upcoming hearings and if you are permitted to attend. If you feel that your case involves a sensitive matter, and you are not comfortable having members of the public in the hearing room, you must raise this matter with the tribunal before your hearing to see if public access can be restricted or denied.

Are tribunal hearings open to the media?

If the hearing is open to the public, it is likely that members of the media can also attend, but cameras and recording devices may be restricted. If you are not comfortable with this situation, you should raise it with the tribunal before your hearing and ask that cameras and recording devices not be used at the hearing.

Can you make your own recording at the hearing?

The tribunal may restrict cameras and recording devices, so you should check with the tribunal before the hearing if you intend to use your own recording device. Sometimes the tribunal will record its own proceedings, and you can obtain a transcript for a fee.

Video conference hearings

If the tribunal informs you that the hearing will be by video conference instead of in-person (to save you travel expenses), ask the tribunal registry where the video conference will be held. You should follow the same procedure as in-person hearings.

Telephone Hearings

What to expect at a telephone hearing

Telephone hearings are a common way for tribunals to resolve matters. If the hearing will take place by telephone conference call, the tribunal will set the time, date, and place or contact information for the hearing and notify the parties. If a party who has been notified does not participate, the adjudicator may proceed with the hearing and make a decision without hearing from that party. A telephone hearing follows the same procedure as in-person hearings. Telephone hearings are different from a telephone conference that an adjudicator may set up in the early stages of the process to try to resolve the dispute through case management techniques.

The procedure

The tribunal you are dealing with will establish the procedure for a telephone hearing. The first things you should do to prepare for your hearing are described in the Steps Before a Hearing section of this website. You should always read the self-help information on the tribunal’s website or call the tribunal’s office to ask for information about the process. Search the Admin Law BC Directory to find a website link or contact information for the tribunal that interests you.

Written Hearings

What are written hearings?

If your case is not resolved at an early stage by case management, mediation, or a settlement conference, the tribunal may order that your case be decided by reviewing the parties’ written submissions rather than by personal attendance at a hearing. Some tribunals will let you decide what type of hearing you prefer.

Written submissions mean that you do not appear before an adjudicator in person; instead you send a package of material to the adjudicator, including relevant documents and a “legal argument” that explains why the adjudicator should decide in your favour. An adjudicator may call you to ask for further information, or to arrange a telephone conference with the other party.

Written submissions are a good alternative to in person hearings if it would be expensive to travel to the hearing location, if the facts are not in dispute, or if there are no issues of credibility that need to be determined. Overall, this type of hearing must be practical in light of the issues in dispute and the type of evidence that will be submitted. Both parties will have an opportunity to read and respond to the other party’s submissions. This is done in one of two ways:

  1. Staggered submissions are done in sequence. First, the party who is making the complaint or appealing delivers their written statement. The other party makes their own submissions and replies to the first submission within a fixed time limit. Then the first party has a final opportunity to respond. It is very important to adhere to the time limits set by the tribunal.
  2. In simultaneous submissions, both parties deliver their written submissions to the adjudicator and are given an opportunity to respond to the other party’s submission on a specified date.

The process

Organize your material

Your written submissions should follow the guidelines, if any, established by the tribunal you are dealing with. The first things you should do to prepare are described in the Steps Before a Hearing section of this website. You should always read the self-help information on the tribunal’s website or call the tribunal’s office to ask for information about the process. Search the Admin Law BC Directory to find a website link or contact information for the tribunal that interests you.

Prepare your written submissions

Written submissions generally follow this outline:

  • Start with an opening statement: a brief description of what your case is about and a clear statement of what remedy you are seeking (i.e., what decision you are asking the tribunal to make).
  • Set out the relevant facts, in chronological order.
  • Include all relevant evidence, including sworn statements from witnesses (e.g., affidavits or statutory declarations) and documents (e.g., letters, photographs, or contracts).
  • Explain how the evidence supports your case.
  • Include a “legal argument”, which explains how the law and the tribunal’s previous decisions support your case, and include copies of the decisions you are relying on.
  • End with a summary of your case, and state the decision that you are asking the tribunal to make.

These topics are described in more detail in the Preparing Your Presentation section of this website.

Review and Respond to other submissions

Review the other party’s submissions to understand their position and how to rebut their arguments. Respond to their submissions – explain why the other party’s case does not tell the whole story, provide missing information, point out errors and omissions that the other party has made, reiterate how the facts of your case support the order that you are seeking. You cannot usually introduce new evidence at this stage of the proceedings, as all relevant evidence should have been included in your first written submission. If you have forgotten to submit relevant evidence at an earlier stage, you must get the adjudicator’s consent to submit additional evidence.

If the adjudicator has further questions or needs more information, they may set up a telephone conference with both parties or ask for further written submissions.

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