[00:00:04 Visual: Animation shows a person in a blue t-shirt scratching their head as a courthouse pops up.]
Narrator: Taking part in a court hearing can feel overwhelming, but knowing what to expect can help.
[00:00:06 Three bubbles appear showing the following: files and photos labeled “exhibits”, two people in street clothes labeled “witnesses,” and a person in a black robe labeled “judge.” The graphics slide away and a document labeled “Notice of Hearing” slides in. A magnifying glass slides across the document.]
In this video you’ll learn:
- how to read a court hearing notice and prepare for a hearing;
[00:00:11 The Notice of Hearing slides over as the court graphic and a phone pop up beside it.]
- what to expect when you get to court; and
- how to keep in touch with the court after your hearing.
[00:00:21 The graphics slide away, and the following title pops up:]
Step 1: Find help if you need it
[00:00:25 A line wipes away the title and shows the main character and a courthouse.]
Many people represent themselves in court, but you can get help if you need it.
[00:00:28 A phone appears and rings. The graphics sink away and a simplified website graphic reading “Going to court: Where to get help” pops up.]
See our list of resources on the “Going to Court” page on vtlawhelp.org. It includes getting help with a Relief from Abuse hearing, and asking for an interpreter.
[00:00:36 An arrow clicks on the web page, and it reveals a shield icon and a paper with many languages. The icons transform into the URL “vtlawhelp.org” and a phone slides into frame with the number 1-800-889-2047.]
If you have an upcoming civil court hearing, contact Legal Services Vermont for quick advice. We can’t help with criminal cases or traffic violations, but we can help victims of crime.
[00:00:48 The devices fall away, and three bubble graphics appear: a pair of handcuffs with an x on them, a traffic light with an x on it, and two hands reaching for each other with a checkmark on them. The graphics slide away, and the following title pops up:]
Step 2: Read your notice and get ready
[00:01:02 A line wipes away the title and shows a manilla envelope with a Vermont stamp. It opens, and a “Notice of Hearing” letter slides out.]
If you’re attending a court hearing in Vermont, you’ll get a letter, or “hearing notice”, which tells you:
[00:01:11 As each detail is mentioned, it is revealed on the letter.]
- the time and address of the hearing;
- the type of hearing; and
- how long the hearing should last.
[00:01:16 The Notice of Hearing slips back into the envelope. A bubble graphic with a trash can appears beside it. A line slashes through the bubble. The notice multiplies to show more envelopes.]
Don’t throw away the notice. Read all mail from the court right away and keep court papers somewhere you can easily find them.
[00:01:22 The trash can graphic sinks away and a folder pops up. The notices file into it. The file slides away and a chart with a series of time slots reading “Court Schedule” slides in.]
Some hearings are “block scheduled”. This means people with different cases may show up at the same time.
[00:01:30 The schedule sinks away and three people pop up. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 appear next to each person from right to left.]
The judge will hear cases in the order they show up or are ready. Show up on time for your hearing or, if you can, arrive early.
[00:01:40 The people numbered 2 and 3 sink away, and person 1, the main character, slides over as a clock pops in. It winds back. The main character sinks away, and two courthouses slide in.]
Be sure to check the address on the notice. Some cities have more than one court building.
[00:01:47 A location marker appears at the courthouse on the left. They slide away, and the main character slides back in. Communication devices appear as they are mentioned, ending with a laptop computer that shows the main character on the screen.]
The notice may also tell you how to participate in the hearing. It could be in person, by phone, or online by video. Contact the court before your hearing if you have questions.
[00:02:00 The laptop sinks away and is replaced with the courthouse as a phone vibrates. The phone and main character sink away as the court takes the center.]
The notice also tells you what kind of hearing it will be. For example:
- In a “status conference,” the judge talks to both sides to figure out what should happen next, or to see if the people involved can settle their differences.
[00:02:07 The kind of hearing types along the bottom of the screen as each is mentioned. A judge pops up sitting at a bench, and two people flank the judge. A piece of paper with the title “Motion” pops up beside the judge.]
- In a “motion hearing,” the court hears arguments or testimony about a request from one of the people involved, such as asking to dismiss the case.
[00:02:28 The motion paper sinks away.]
- A “final hearing” or “merits hearing” is also known as a “trial”. This is when the court hears from the people involved and any witnesses to help decide who should win the case.
[00:02:37 Witnesses pop up beside each person flanking the judge. The group slides away. A full-length mirror slides in with the main character looking into it and holding a piece of paper.]
If you’re testifying, practice your answers to possible questions from the other side—the “opposing party”—their lawyer, and the judge. Also write down any questions you want to ask witnesses or the other side. Think about any witnesses you want to testify for you, and ask them to come to court.
[00:02:50 The mirror slides over, making room for a checklist and two people to pop up. The group of objects slides away and four types of documents pop in as they are mentioned.]
Do you have documents, papers, pictures, or messages (such as text or Facebook messages) that you want the judge to see? These are called “exhibits”.
[00:03:14 The word “exhibits” types at the bottom of the screen. The exhibits gather into a manilla envelope.]
Keep your exhibits well-organized, and be sure you can tell the court what they are and where you got them. Print at least three copies of all exhibits and bring them to court.
[00:03:22 The envelope multiplies into 3 envelopes. Labels slap onto each: one says “judge,” one says “defendant,” and one says “plaintiff.”]
Give one copy to the judge and one to the other side. Keep the third copy for yourself.
[00:03:31 The envelopes sink away, replaced by a phone and laptop open to a video chat. Between them, a calendar tears away pages from the 17th back to the 10th.]
If your hearing is by phone or online by video, you probably need to give out copies of your exhibits before the hearing. If the hearing notice doesn’t tell you, call the court and ask.
[00:03:42 The laptop and calendar sink away, and a courthouse pops up beside the phone. The courthouse slides away and the following title appears:]
Step 3: Get to your hearing early
[00:03:50 The title slides away, and a mirror showing the main character pops up. They are now wearing a dress shirt.]
On the day of your hearing, dress neatly and professionally, even if you’re participating by online video.
[00:03:54 A laptop pops in with main character in the video chat. The two graphics disappear and a clock pops in. A hand on the clock turns, and the bottom section of the clock turns red.]
Court hearings don’t always start or end on time. Take time off work if you need to. Make sure someone can watch your kids and pets until at least a couple of hours after the time your hearing is scheduled to end.
[00:04:00 A calendar pops up with a speech bubble reading “day off” beside the clock. On the other side, a bubble with a dog and a child wearing a backpack pops up as the clock turns. The group of objects slide away. The main character and an advocate with a ponytail slide in with a courthouse.]
Depending on the type of hearing, you may be able to bring a support person with you, but they will not be allowed to speak in the hearing, and may not be able to sit at the table with you.
[00:04:17 A speech bubble appears over the advocate’s head. A red X covers the speech bubble. A railing rises up between the advocate and main character. The group slides away. The main character pops up and walks through a metal detector.]
Get to court early. You will go through a security check and metal detector when you enter the courthouse. Tell a court security officer what case you are there for and they will tell you where to go.
[00:04:31 A security officer pops up and the main character talks to them. The officer points out the way to go. The officer sinks away, and a set of doors marked “Room 101” pops up. A court employee with a clipboard and headset pops up, too.]
When you find the right courtroom, check in with a clerk or security officer.
[00:4:44 The image slides away, and the main character pops up sitting at a desk with a computer. A clock appears, showing a 5-minute slice in red.]
If you’re attending the hearing by phone or computer, connect at least five minutes early. Your court notice will include the contact information.
[00:04:50 The clock shrinks away, and a view of the computer screen pops up, reading “connecting.” A court employee wearing a headset pops up on the screen.]
Be in a quiet location, and not in a moving car. When you connect, a court staff member will ask what case you’re there for.
[00:05:03 The image slides away, and the following title types out:]
Step 4: Follow the rules of the courtroom
[00:05:08 A line wipes away the title. The main character appears, sitting at a desk as their advocate sits behind a railing. Bubble graphics pop up showing a phone and a tablet. Their screens show mute symbols.]
You can have a phone or other electronic device with you in court—but make sure it’s on silent.
[00:05:15 The symbols shrink away and the judge slides in. The main character and advocate stand up.]
The judge will enter the room and everyone will stand up, and the court officer will call the name of your case.
[0:05:32 Another person appears seated on the judge’s other side. The main character stands to talk.]
You and the other side or their lawyer will take turns speaking or asking witnesses questions. The judge may also ask you questions.
[The main character sits down, and the judge and the other person sink away. The main character writes notes. As the narrator mentions it, the main character stands.]
If you think of something you need to say, but it’s not your turn, write it down. Don’t interrupt.
Stand when it is your turn to speak, unless the judge says you can stay seated, and call the judge “Your Honor.”
[00:05:46 “Your Honor” types out at the bottom of the screen. The image slides away and a gavel bangs and slides in.]
At the end of your hearing, the judge will either give you a written decision, called an “order,” or let you know when a decision will be delivered to you.
[00:05:51 A piece of paper with the word “Order” slides in. It switches out for an envelope flying into a mailbox. The mailbox sinks away, and Room 101 pops back up with the main character and the court employee with the headset.]
If you’re getting an order that day, don’t leave court right away! The court clerk will ask you to sign for the order and give you a copy.
[00:06:07 The image slides away and the following title appears:]
Step 5: Keep in touch with the court
[00:06:12 A line wipes away the title and a courthouse pops up. Three graphic bubbles pop up around it: one with a phone, one with a calendar, and one with a gavel.]
It’s important that the court knows how to reach you about your case, any deadlines, or any future hearings.
[00:06:18 The image sinks away, and the main character pops up, signing a paper on a clipboard. A court clerk stands nearby.]
If you haven’t already, get a Notice of Appearance form at the court clerk’s office. Fill it out and give it to the court clerk before you leave. Any time your phone, mailing address, or email changes while your case is still going on, make sure to fill out a new Notice of Appearance form.
[00:06:29 The clerk sinks away, and three bubble graphics pop in: a phone, a location marker and an envelope with speed lines behind it, showing motion. The graphics slide away and a green logo slides in, reading “Legal Services Vermont: Working Together For Justice”. Below it, text reads “1-800-889-2047, vtlawhelp.org.”]
Have questions about your court hearing? Plan ahead and contact Legal Services Vermont.
End of transcript.