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Written applications and judicial working conditions

The life of an employment judge is not an easy one. (This conclusion is not based on direct personal experience or a statistically robust survey, but I feel sure it’s true.)

Every day, each tribunal centre gets a heavy load of written applications: for postponements; for discovery; for a pre-hearing review to be listed; for a judgment to be reviewed and so on. Most of these are dealt with by whatever judges are on hand. Some may be spending the whole day on paper matters – but more likely, your application will be dealt with by someone who is fitting in paper work during the lunch break or at the end of the hearing day.

So your application will probably be dealt with in a hurry by someone busy, who has not previously had anything to do with the case and has a large stack of other applications to get through.

This should determine how you write your application. You need to make it as easy as possible for the judge to understand – fast – what you want, why you want it, and why you ought to get it. So it should have the following features:

  1. It should be concise.
  2. It should be direct, and make it absolutely clear what you’re asking the judge to do, and why.
  3. It should include all the information the judge needs to decide the application.
  4. It should leave out anything that the judge doesn’t need to know to decide the application.

Getting the balance of providing enough, but not too much, information can be difficult. The application should summarise all the information or background the judge needs to decide it. If you need to refer to any other documents – such as previous correspondence – copies should be attached. It should not assume that the judge has any prior knowledge of what the case is about or what has happened so far. But at the same time, it shouldn’t burden the judge with information she doesn’t need to decide the application. This will just make her job more difficult and risk obscuring the relevant information.

Some examples may help.

Example 1:

If you’re asking for a postponement because the claimant has just been admitted to hospital for emergency surgery, you don’t need to tell the judge anything about the case or its procedural history. All she needs to know is that there’s a compelling reason why the claimant isn’t going to be able to attend.

Example 2

If you’re asking for disclosure of some specific document the respondent is refusing to show you, you’ll need to explain why it’s relevant. That means you’ll need to explain the dispute to which it’s relevant. But you still don’t need to explain the whole case – just the bit that you say can’t be resolved without this particular document.

Example 3

If you’re asking the tribunal to strike out the response because the respondent has failed to comply with a whole series of previous orders from the tribunal, you’ll need to set out the procedural history in some detail, and attach copies of all the relevant orders, all your polite and understated but persistent letters chasing compliance with them, and all the respondent’s quarrelsome and/or feeble replies.

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