IMPORTANT NOTE

  • This publication is for general reference only and should not be treated as legal or professional advice.  The State Courts disclaim any and all liabilities in connection with the contents of this publication.

 

  • Please note that as the State Courts is the adjudicating body for cases that are brought before the Magistrate's Court and District Court, our staff and officers are not allowed to give you any legal advice whether generally, or specifically on the merits of your case.

 

  • To seek legal advice, you may wish to refer to the directory of practising lawyers maintained by the Law Society of Singapore.  For further information, please go to the website of the Law Society at www.lawsociety.org.sg, or contact them at:

Law Society of Singapore
39 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058673
Tel: 65382500.

  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may wish to consider if you qualify for legal aid.  For more information, please approach the Ministry of Law’s Legal Aid Bureau at:

The Legal Aid Bureau
45 Maxwell Road
#07-11 The URA Centre (East Wing)
Singapore 069118
Telephone: 1800-2255529

  • Alternatively, you may wish to approach the Community Justice Centre at Level 1 of the State Courts for informational assistance and   to arrange an appointment for free legal consultation with a volunteer lawyer.  You may also request the assistance of volunteer to give you administrative support for the trial.


 

Please refer to the pamphlet 'A Guide to Common Civil Justice Processes' for background information on civil processes in the State Courts.

For the detailed legal framework, rules, regulations and powers of the Courts in the civil litigation process, you may wish to refer to the State Courts Act (Cap 321), the Rules of Court and the State Courts Practice Directions, which can be found on the website of the State Courts at www.statecourts.gov.sg and the relevant links therein.


 

Can I conduct a civil trial in person?

Yes.  Generally, a litigant in a civil action who is an individual can choose to conduct his own case in court i.e. act in person, or he can engage a lawyer to represent him.  

A litigant who is a company, a limited liability partnership or an unincorporated association must generally be represented by a lawyer although the Court may grant permission for a duly authorised officer of the entity to act on its behalf.  Please refer to Order 1 Rule 9 of the Rules of Court for the detailed requirements and procedure on how to apply to the Court for permission. 


 

What should I consider when deciding whether I should act in person or engage a lawyer to represent me?

While you may wish to avoid spending money to engage a lawyer, you should note that:

  • The Court holds litigants in person to the same standard of preparation as lawyers for the trial of each case.   You will have to comply with all the relevant rules and practice directions in preparing for the trial.  
  • At the trial, you must be able to explain your case clearly to the Court. A strong case can be lost if improperly or inadequately communicated. You must be able to cross-examine witnesses, make reference to any relevant documents, and make submissions to support your case.
  • If there are questions of law that need to be decided in your case, you may not be able to argue your case with the relevant legal authorities

In reality, not everyone has the ability to conduct a trial in person – even though you may have the legal right to do so.


 

What can I expect if I decide to conduct a trial in person?

Your case will be given a trial date by the Court only after all the pre-trial processes have been completed. 

At the pre-trial stage, the Court will give timelines for the processes of discovery or disclosure of documents by both sides, inspection of the documents and exchange of affidavits of evidence-in-chief and for the case to be set down for trial.

Once a case is set down for trial, the Court will notify parties to attend a pre-trial conference (PTC).  You must attend the PTC on the date and time stated.  If you are absent at the PTC, the Court may dismiss your claim if you are the plaintiff, or enter judgment against you if you are the defendant.


What happens at the Pre-Trial Conference (PTC)?

At the PTC, the judge will inquire if the case can be resolved amicably without a trial. Depending on the circumstances of the case, parties may be given the opportunity to negotiate on their own to arrive at a settlement of the case or consider any other mode of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  The PTC will then be adjourned to give the parties time to resolve the case on their own.

The PTC judge will fix the case for trial in a specified courtroom once he or she is satisfied that the case cannot be resolved by the parties. 

The PTC judge will check with parties on the number of witnesses that will be called, whether any interpreters will be required, give directions for audio transcription of the proceedings at trial, and other logistical arrangements. 

Usually only 1 day will be allocated for a fresh trial with a direction for a second tranche of dates to be given if necessary.  This is to prevent wastage of trial days in the event parties settle their case before or on the first day of trial.  As the trial date cannot be changed once it is fixed, unless there are special reasons given to the Court by way of a formal application, you should make sure that you and your witnesses will be available on the trial date(s) fixed by the Court.  

Generally, the trial date(s) given will be within 28 days from the PTC.


What should I do after a trial date is given?

You must notify all your witnesses of the trial date and the courtroom allocated for the trial.  If a witness is unwilling to attend, you may apply to Court for a ‘subpoena’ to order his attendance.

For information on how to subpoena witnesses, please approach our staff at the Civil Registry.

To prepare for the trial, you should familiarise yourself with all the affidavits of evidence-in-chief that have been filed.  You should also prepare the questions for cross-examination of your opponent’s witnesses.


What documents must I submit before the trial?

Before the trial date, the Court will send you a letter to submit several bundles of documents:

  • Bundle of affidavits of evidence-in-chief (all your witnesses’ affidavits).
  • Bundle of Documents (documents you intend to rely on at trial).
  • Bundle of Authorities (authorities include cases, statutes, subsidiary legislation and any other materials that you are relying on).
  • Opening Statement (The opening statement is a written summary of your case and the issues to be decided by the Court, both of fact and law. This will help to clarify issues between parties so that time is not wasted on matters that are not disputed or not relevant. The plaintiff's opening statement must be filed and served on all parties not less than 3 days before the start of the trial. The opening statements for the other parties should similarly be filed and served not later than 2 days before the start of the trial).

What should I do if my witnesses cannot speak English?

Interpreters are available to assist you. The Court is able to provide interpreters for the following languages and dialects: Malay, Boyanese, Javanese, Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew.

You will need to request for an interpreter by filing a ‘Request for Hearing Administrative Support’ through the electronic filing service.  All filings have to be done at the CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at 133 New Bridge Road #19-01/02, Chinatown Point, Singapore 059413.


 

What documents must I bring on the day of trial?

Please bring the following:

  • Your identity card (NRIC or any official identification document) for identification
  • At least 2 sets of all the Bundles submitted to Court (1 for the witness and one for yourself).
  • Writing material to take notes (e.g. pens, notepad).


 

What do I do on the day of trial?

Generally, do observe the following:

  • Dress appropriately. You should avoid wearing singlet, shorts, slippers and shabby or scanty dressing. You may wish to bring a jacket as you will be spending many hours in an air-conditioned courtroom.
  • Be punctual.
  • Upon arrival, inform the Court Officer and confirm that your case is fixed in that courtroom.
  • You may bring water but no food is allowed.
  • Your friends may attend to support you but they need to be seated in the seats designated for the public.
  • Always speak and conduct yourself with in a courteous manner.
  • If you need to excuse yourself urgently, please ask the Judge for a short recess.
  • No audio or video recording is allowed. If caught, you can be punished by law.
  • As all our courtrooms are installed with digital audio recording equipment, to ensure that the record will be clear, you should speak into the microphones provided and follow the cues from the court officer in attendance. 

 

What if I am late or cannot attend court due to personal emergencies?

If you are running late, call the opposing lawyer to inform him you are on your way and state your estimated time of arrival.

If you are late or absent, the Judge may proceed with the case in your absence. In the circumstances, your claim may either be dismissed or judgment may be entered against you.


 

How should I address the Judge and other parties?

When the Judge enters and leaves the courtroom, please stand and bow as a show of respect for the Judiciary.

Always stand when you speak to the Court. You can use the following references:

  • Judge - "Sir / Ma'am" or "Your Honour".
  • The opposing lawyer - "Learned Counsel".
  • Witnesses - By their surname, for example, Mr Tan or Miss Kamala.

You should not interrupt the Judge or the lawyer for the other side when they are speaking. If you wish to raise a point when it is not your turn to speak, you should always stand and wait for the Judge or lawyer for the other side to finish speaking first before you seek the permission of the Court to raise any further points that you wish to state.


 

What is the sequence of proceedings during the trial?

Generally, the stages are as follows:

  • The Plaintiff will introduce the parties (e.g. “I am XYZ, the Plaintiff. My learned friend ABC is counsel for the Defendant” etc).
  • The Court will mark the bundles (e.g. “Plaintiffs Bundle of Affidavits marked PA pages 1 to 100”). 
  • Opening statements are read by the Plaintiff followed by the Defendant.
  • The Plaintiff will call his witnesses; Defendant to cross-examine; Plaintiff to re-examine.
  • After all the Plaintiff’s witnesses are called, the Plaintiff will close his case.
  • Defendant to call witnesses; Plaintiff to cross-examine; Defendant to re-examine.
  • After all the Defendant’s witnesses are called, the Defendant will close his case.
  • Submissions by parties.
  • Court delivers its judgment.

Please note that there are strict legal rules that regulate what questions may be asked. It is normal for opposing lawyers to object to questions asked in breach of these rules. The Judge will guide parties along as the trial progresses.

For cases commenced in the Magistrate's Court on or after 1 November 2014, which are directed for a simplified trial, strict time limits will be imposed:  

  • examination in chief of a witness –– 10 minutes per witness;
  • cross-examination of a witness –– 60 minutes per witness;
  • re-examination of a witness –– 10 minutes per witness;
  • closing submissions –– 30 minutes per party

The time limits can be extended only with permission of the Judge in appropriate circumstances.

The judgment is the decision of the Court at the conclusion of the trial. The Court may pronounce judgment immediately after listening to the closing submissions. Alternatively, it may adjourn the case to take more time to consider the evidence and arguments. In such an instance, the Court will inform the parties on a later date to attend before the Court for the delivery of judgment.


 

What if I disagree with the verdict of the Judge?

If the Judge decides against your case, do not argue with him or her in the courtroom. The Rules of Court provide for ways for you to appeal against the decision.

Generally, you must file an appeal within 14 days from the pronouncement of the judgment. For Magistrate’s Court actions below $50,000, you must first apply for leave (permission) to appeal.


 

STATE COURTS
1 Havelock Square
Singapore 059724
Tel: 1800-JUSTICE (1800-587-8423)
Fax: 6435-5122
Website:
www.statecourts.gov.sg

Last updated on: 4/11/2016 12:01 PM

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