Guidelines for post-hearing interaction with commentary

for civil cases

4.1 Issuing the decision. Judges should exercise discretion in deciding whether to issue a decision at the close of the hearing while both parties are present, or to inform the parties that the matter will be taken under advisement and that a written decision will be mailed to them. In cases where there is no immediate need to enter an order, the judge may inform the parties that the judge wishes to consider their evidence and arguments before making a decision. If possible, the judge should give a time frame within which the case will be decided.

Depending upon the circumstances, there may be practical reasons not to issue an immediate order, apart from the judge's need to review the file and the law. In some sessions, the judge may be dealing with a high volume of self-represented litigants unfamiliar with the court system. A self-represented litigant may be angry, volatile, or upset with the court and opposing party or counsel over the "need to be there." A decision issued from the bench, particularly if it is not favorable to the self-represented litigant, may result in an outburst directed to the other side, disruption of the court session, or security concerns. Sometimes the self-represented party will seek to reargue the case to be sure the judge "understands." These problems can cause serious delays in busy sessions. A written decision, issued by mail, allows the parties to receive it privately, away from the stress of the proceedings, and to reflect on how they wish to proceed.

4.2 Appeals. If asked about the appellate process, judges may refer the litigant to the appropriate authority.

Each court should have resource material available about the appellate process.

(1) This Commentary is intended to supply suggestions and resources for judges who wish to exercise their discretion consistent with the Guidelines. It was authored by the Subcommittee on Judicial Guidelines of the Supreme Judicial Court Steering Committee on Self-Represented Litigants, and endorsed by the full Committee. It has not been reviewed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court.


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