Before the hearing formally begins, the magistrate will often ask if there is any “housekeeping” or anything that needs to be discussed to make the hearing go more smoothly. You should tell the magistrate if any of your witnesses have scheduling limitations, if you have problems with your exhibits or the other party’s exhibit packet, if you need to break at certain times for medical reasons, or anything else that might affect the flow of the hearing.
The hearing follows a trial format, but is less formal. It is tape recorded or digitally recorded. There may also be a stenographer present if a party requests and provides it. The typical procedure is: Magistrate welcomes participants and reads a formal opening statement into the record. The magistrate puts the documents into the hearing record as exhibits. You and the other party have a chance to make an opening statement. Whoever asked for the hearing goes first.
Assuming you have requested the hearing, you then present your witnesses one by one. First you ask the questions (direct examination). The other party then will ask the witness questions (cross-examination). The magistrate may also ask questions. If you are testifying, the magistrate will most likely permit you to testify in narrative form without the question/answer format. When you have finished presenting all your witnesses, the other party will present its witnesses by asking the first round of questions. Then you may ask questions. The magistrate may also ask questions. When all the witnesses are finished, the magistrate will ask if you would like to make a closing statement. Then the hearing will finish.
The magistrate will not make a decision right away. You will receive a written decision in the mail.
The purpose of the hearing is to gather evidence. The magistrate’s role is to manage the flow of the evidence and to ensure that each party can participate in the process. The magistrate is aware of how difficult it is to represent yourself. The magistrate is neutral at all times. She or he cannot represent you or give you any legal advice.
If you want to testify, the magistrate will administer an oath to you which may apply to most of your speech at the hearing. You may be questioned by both the other party and the magistrate.