Court Orders For Evidence
The court will usually set deadlines for the parties to meet in the same order that it notifies them of the trial date in small claims court. The typical order requires the parties to file and serve copies of all documents on which they intend to rely at the hearing at least 14 days before the final hearing date.
All witnesses on whom each party intends to rely must have signed statements prepared and copies added into the bundle. This includes the testimony of the parties as well as any other witness, whether or not he intends to testify in court.
However, your opponent may miss the deadline and either supply information late or attempt to present it during the trial.
The courts do not tolerate people who surprise both the court and their opponent. The goal of setting a deadline is to ensure:
- There is a fair exchange of written proof and documents without one party presenting first, followed by the other.
- Both parties should be given enough time to evaluate the evidence.
- The Judge will have time to review the documents and evidence before the trial begins. After the hearing has begun, reading new evidence may cause delays and jeopardize the hearing’s progress.
Late With Evidence, What Now?
In general, if the opposing party wishes to rely on evidence that contradicts the terms of the order, you should object to its acceptance on the grounds that it has disadvantaged you for the reasons stated above. It may be preferable, if necessary, to request that the Judge postpone the hearing so that the evidence can be properly considered.
If you are the one who has missed a deadline, you should expect to have to defend your actions in front of the Judge. The Judge is likely to be harsh.
It is up to the Judge’s discretion whether to admit evidence used in violation of an order’s conditions or when court rules have been broken. Some judges will strictly adhere to the court’s rules, while others may be more lenient and accommodating. The Judge will most likely weigh whether the evidence will help him decide the claim against the harm it will cause to the party who received it late.
In making such a decision the court should apply court rule 27.8 which states:
(1) The court may adopt any method of proceeding at a hearing that it considers to be fair.
(2) Hearings will be informal.
(3) The strict rules of evidence do not apply.
(4) The court need not take evidence on oath.
(5) The court may limit cross-examination.
(6) The court must give reasons for its decision.