VIII. How to fix a trial date and what may happen at a trial
Generally, applications for leave to set down civil causes for trial are made at the Case Management Conference (CMC). If a trial date is sought, each party should file and serve together with his Listing Questionnaire a certificate giving time estimate (without taking into account the time estimates of other parties) of his own opening submission, evidence-in-chief of each of his own witnesses, cross examination of each of the other side’s witnesses and his own closing submission. The certificate should preferably be prepared by the trial counsel.
At the CMC, if the Listing Master or Judge is satisfied that the parties are ready for trial, he will grant permission for fixing a trial date, and give directions regarding the manner for trial including the list on which the trial date will be fixed: the Fixture List or the Running List. Cases with an estimated length of trial of 3 days or less will be assigned to and set down in the Running List. An action will only be assigned to the Fixture List where the Master or Judge is satisfied that by reason of the estimated length of trial or for other good cause the action is appropriate to that List.
In appropriate cases, the Listing Master or Judge may also fix a date for a pre-trial review. The pre-trial review is generally dealt with by the trial judge, where he will, among other things, fix the starting date if a trial period has been fixed, confirm or vary the estimated length of the trial and give further directions. Where fixed, the pre-trial review is usually held about 8-10 weeks in advance of a trial.
The plaintiff should then file with the court an application to set a case down for trial. When filing the application to set the case down for trial, a prescribed fee has to be paid. In addition, a bundle of documents have to be lodged (see Order 34 rule 3 of the Rules of the High Court for the requirements of making this bundle). The form of application to set a case down for trial is prescribed by Appendix D to Practice Direction 5.2. A party to an action who set it down for trial must also notify the other parties to the action that he has done so within 24 hours.
When granting leave to set down for trial in the Fixture List, the Master or Judge may fix the trial date or a trial period or direct the parties to attend before the Clerk of Court on a specified date to fix the date(s) for trial. In listing the trial date, the court will take account of the availability of the parties, their counsel and witnesses.
For cases in the Running List, no fixed date will be offered for the trial. Once the title of the action has been fixed, its action number will appear at the bottom of the Pending List (a list of cases pending trial by the court) if it is expected that it will be tried during the next succeeding month. Parties must therefore check the Pending List regularly to see if their case has been listed yet.
Cases will be tried by judges who are found available to try them, generally in accordance with the order set out on the Pending List. Every Wednesday, a number of cases listed on the Pending List will be warned that they are likely to be called and tried during the next week. These cases are put on a separate list called the Warned List (please go to the Judiciary webpage if you want to see this list).
If the case has been put on the Warned List, the parties concerned are required to check this List every day to see if their case has been fixed to be tried on the next day. The Warned List is posted on the Notice Board outside the Clerk of Court's office and the Pending List is posted on the Notice Board in the Reception area of the Clerk of Court's Office on the Ground Floor. At 2:30 pm in every afternoon, the Listing Clerk will mark on the Warned List those cases that will be tried the next day, specifying the place and the time where and when the case will be tried. It is the responsibility of the parties concerned to ensure that they attend the trial on time.